Wednesday letters: Supreme Court, oil and gas, climate change, and OSHA
Put some controls on the Supreme Court
Hundreds of Supreme Court decisions have been decided along party lines. The so-called conservatives typically decide against individuals in favor of large economic interests. Arguments are made over whether judges should ascertain the exact meaning of the text of the Constitution or the intention of the authors. And then, what do you do with the later Amendments? In my reading of the Constitution I failed to find instructions for the future about how to read the document. It does say that changes can not be made? It allows for amendments. It does not say that people 200 years later cannot look at the kind of lives we are living and make the best decisions for the people based on current circumstances. Just ask what decision we make today is in our current best interest. The word “corporation” is not in the Constitution. Ruth Bader Ginsburg made her living correcting the errors of the past courts. Bless her! That is not activist; that is smart and compassionate. Her work is not finished.
I find it a con and a fraud to proclaim that only the ancient text is a suitable basis for decisions. Judges can claim anything — these are only interpretations. Another travesty is the lack of rules for ethics. Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife was making some $400,000 working for a Republican influence organization. “That ain’t right,” in the words of Chris Rock. I heard Justice Antonin Scalia say that he based his opinion on the 2nd Amendment on changes in public opinion over the years. Excuse me! Thank you NRA. I’m sure his buddies on his hunting trips agreed with his decision. I recall Vice President Dick Cheney bringing Scalia to a hunt event in a private plane. Just before Scalia ruled in Cheney’s favor.
It is long past time to put some serious controls on the Supreme Court. There are plenty of good suggestions. One is to get rid of lifetime appointments. Another is to add members. And, of course, rules for ethics and an independent body to enforce them. Most impeachments of federal officers have been for judges. What does that tell you?
Oil and gas drilling devastated my retirement home
When I moved to Battlement Mesa in 2002, for what was supposed to be a peaceful retirement, I never anticipated the possibility that the gas well industry could surround and impact this small community.
It started out wonderfully. I enjoyed the walking paths, the golf course, the recreation center and meeting new friends. Best of all, I was still in Garfield County, where I have lived all but six of my 93 years of life. I grew up and went through school in Glenwood Springs. I lived and worked in Rifle for over 50 years before moving to Battlement Mesa when my husband’s health began failing.
That all changed in 2008. Antero Resources announced that they would drill on 12 well pads within the Planned Unit Development (PUD) of Battlement Mesa, once a special permit was approved by Garfield County. Our Battlement Concerned Citizens (BCC) group tried very hard to prevent that through meetings, petitions, etc. Antero never drilled inside the PUD, but when the mineral rights were transferred to URSA in 2013, the Garfield County planning and zoning board, and the pro-oil and gas county commissioners gave URSA permission to drill, even though the well sites were very close to neighborhoods.
During the past 10 years, Battlement Mesa became surrounded in all directions by gas well pads; dozens and dozens of them, in all directions. Some of them were miles away, but depending upon the direction of the wind, the odor reached Battlement Mesa. Our quiet residential area became an industrial zone, with some well pads as close as 500 feet away from homes.
I now live approximately 2,000 feet away from two well pads. Residents who live near well pads had trouble sleeping through the night because of light and sound produced by the heavy equipment. This was in addition to the 24 hours, day and night noise of diesel motors, and being assaulted by toxic polluting odors. These odors cause headaches, burning eyes, lightheadedness, nausea and respiratory problems. In my case, they caused a nosebleed that sent me to the emergency room.
We made phone calls and filled out complaint forms, but the industry never addressed our grievances or the air pollution. After more than a decade, the drilling near my home had slowed. Most of the companies that drilled have gone bankrupt or slowed their operations, and finally, we’ve gotten some good news!
Legislation was passed last year directing the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to prioritize health, safety, land, water and wildlife over profits. And recently, they agreed to require at least 2,000 feet between drilling operations and homes and schools. While we can’t go back and recapture the 10 years that were lost to drilling activity, this will hopefully protect families and communities in the future.
This should be the very least that we require for all industries — and Colorado is setting a precedent for all other states to follow. These rules came too late for Battlement Mesa to stop the impacts of the fossil fuel industry with its boom and bust cycles, but know that you can make a difference if you don’t give up, and make your voice heard!
Climate change is here
As embarrassing to once upstanding Republicans should be the opportunism, arrogance and thirst for power of Donald Trump, his sycophants and followers, the most inexcusable is the embrace of ignorance shown in placing political hacks in charge of scientific, environmental institutions, such as the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Silencing the messenger does not alter the reality of the message. Climate change is here and it is very real.
OSHA putting slaughterhouse workers at risk
JBS slaughterhouse in Greeley was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for failing to protect employees from COVID-19. The negligible fine they received wasn’t enough to stop the slaughterhouse from calling high-risk employees back to work.
Many people fear that the agency’s scant oversight and lax penalties are putting slaughterhouse workers at risk. News reports indicate that nearly 43,000 U.S. slaughterhouse employees — in 498 slaughterhouses — had tested positive for COVID-19 by the end of September. More than 200 of them died, and OSHA issued only two small fines.
Let’s not wait for officials to protect slaughterhouse workers — and animals — from suffering and death. We can do it ourselves by opting for vegan foods instead of animal-based ones.
Meat, eggs and dairy products are not essential. We can enjoy tasty vegan foods, and slaughterhouse workers can join the growing vegan food industry.
The PETA Foundation
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