Tuesday, December 22, 2015

State of Emergency in Socal?

Where's their sense of patriotism? We're at war and their worried about a little gas leak.
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

There’s lots of good news coming out of California.  The Golden State Warriors, the state’s basketball team is on top of the world and even the Oakland Raiders are beginning to show some promise for next year anyway. Then there’s Hollywood, lots happening there.

The state of emergency that has been declared in the Porter Ranch area just outside Los Angeles doesn’t seem to be of major interest though. How can it be? It’s not due to a “terrorist” attack not as defined by the FBI anyway.  Yet 1600 residents have been “displaced” due to a natural gas leak that’s been going on for almost two months.

It’s no small matter; at least the FAA thinks not as its instituted what is basically a no-fly zone over the area around the 3600- acre danger zone, an old oil field being used to store natural gas. Flights are banned from flying below 2000ft.

Authorities have ensured residents that there’s absolutely nothing to worry about or more accurately told them the leak doesn’t “pose a significant health risk.”, after all the site is a mile away.  People who don’t live in the path of market driven disasters, --------Fukushima, West Texas and scores more----are experts in determining the safety of those who do.

Apparently 1600 more people have been moved and a thousand or so more have made requests to do so, 1800 students have also been relocated.   There’s no need to worry though, it may stink like rotten eggs residents are told and the increased visits to the school nurse by the young ones is just those pesky kids and their lively imaginations.

The utility that owns the site, Southern California Gas, is part of Sempra Energy. They have what they call, Holding Companies that are a way of obscuring who the actual owners and beneficiaries of profit driven corporations are. It has been included in the list of best 100 corporate citizens I see. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that corporations are people and have the same rights as people, or more. I mean, we’ve all heard the news, “GM said it had no knowledge of the defect”  “Chevron said that the oil leak wasn’t its fault.” Corporations can speak for themselves.

In this case, Jimmie Cho, a company CEO does say that the well passed an inspection within the past year and to back him up, “the company believes it was in compliance with all regulation.”, the Wall Street Journal reports.  That does it, with “The Company” backing him up, all will be well, no pun intended. 

The standard defense in these situations is that the culprit was “in compliance” with all laws and regulations.  They all say that. The problem is that a private for-profit corporation is not a democracy.  And we only have to go back to the catastrophic BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico to see how ineffective  regulatory agencies can be. The government agency responsible for deep sea drilling rules and regulations allowed the energy companies engaged in the business to write the rules themselves.  Give a corporation and inch and it takes a mile.

This is not this corporation’s first leak of this nature. Less than two months ago it found a leak in its Aliso Canyon storage facility, one of the largest in the country. There's no blow by blow, minute by minute coverage of these incidents. No in depth interviews with residents, children, people affected. Perhaps locally, for a minute.  No deep scrutiny of the corporation and its connected parts throughout the globe, its internal e mails, phone conversations, individuals it does business with throughout the world.

There is no such thing as regulatory security when it comes to private industry owning the dominant sectors of the economy. It is not that we should oppose regulation but recognize its limits within the framework of the capitalist mode of production. We can’t begin to protect the population and the environment until industries like energy are taken in to public ownership and their operations determined in a planned rational way.   

The real dangers, the real threats we face come from internal enemies, not external ones.

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