Friday, June 20, 2014

The Road Paved With Frack-Tax Dollars Leads to an Industrialized Hell

Collapsed road sign, sharp curve, public road, Chief's Dacheux Well Pad, Cherry Township, Sullivan County, PA
Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee

Below is my response to Democrat Party candidate, Steve Todd, and his defense of the claim that it is consistent with identifying as a "fractivist" the Democrat Party gubernatorial candidate, Tom Wolf's plan to impose a tax on the natural gas industry. 

The response can be found here: 

The defense of a tax on the gas industry is not consistent with any position whose goal is to end fracking. In fact, it's self-defeating. 

Steve Todd:

Collapsed road sign, sharp curve, public road,
Chief's Dacheux Well Pad,
Cherry Township, Sullivan County, PA
Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee

"Wendy, I call myself a fracktivist. And I support a tax. Because I know the entire world is not going to march lockstep to my edicts. I admire your work (we have attended numerous events together, are FB friends and have met several times). I am on your side. And Alex Lotorto’s side. The same Alex I had to unfriend on FB because of his relentless and very personal attacks on my positions. I am backing Wolf, being a Dem Committeeman (Dauphin County), but I wish you and Glover all the best. But if you do win, I am 100% certain you will be a little disappointed. Winning a political office does not mean you march in and everyone shuts up, and prepares their pens for orders. Folks like Victoria and Tom (with whom I am also acquainted and have worked) are on our side…yours, Alex’, Vera’s, Rebecca’s and mine. It should shock no one to learn that none of those folks march lockstep on the issues of the day…it would be a scary world in which we did."

Wendy's response:

Hi Steve, and thank you for your reply. The argument against a tax--severance or otherwise-- is very clear, as are its implications with respect to who gets to honestly call themselves anti-fracking--and that is not and cannot be you or, for that matter, anyone who supports a tax.

1. A tax on natural gas extraction via fracking will institutionalize the industry by making social programs dependent on its revenue stream. However much the industry resists it, they know that any tax will have this positive effect for them--and so their resistance is feigned and simply aimed at the lowest tax possible. The amount of the tax has no real bearing on the extent to which it institutionalizes the industry as part of the state's internal revenue structure.

2. Wolf is the best thing that could happen to the gas industry--far better than Corbett--because while the duped are celebrating Wolf's imposing a tax, the industry will go about their dirty business as usual--but with the added bonus that they now have the cover of legitimacy behind a painless tax that will guarantee their presence in the state forever--or until they leave us a spent industrialized wasteland. Corbett could never have lent them this cover.

3. Taxing the industry will actively encourage even less regulation. The formula is simple" Imposing a tax=insuring dependence of social programs=pressure to generate more revenue=pressure for the industry to make more money=weakening regulations. In other words, the more dependence, the more pressure to generate greater tax revenues, and because the tax as a percentage of profit is never going to amount to anything substantial, the thing that's going to have to give is the regulations and their enforcement. When you add to this the fact that--as this article demonstrates once again--the regulations are meaningless and unenforceable now, just imagine what that will mean given the institutionalization of the industry. Welcome to Texas.

4. Once the industry is institutionalized in the state's tax structure, they will be able to exert pressure like never before. They will be in a position to level substantive threats of withdrawal and whoever is governor will cave to the threat precisely because essential social programs--and (thanks to Wolf) funding for education will now be tied to gas tax revenue. The regulations will then be enforced even less, more and more Democrats will jump on board for horrendous bills like the gutting of the state's endangered species act--and representative like yourself will have paved the way for the future industrialization of the state including the further erosion of property rights, rights to clean air and water, rights to speak out against the industry. In short, an invitation to become part of the state's essential economic wherewithal in an invitation to corporate hegemony.

5. (1)-(4) can have only one conclusion: more fracking including all of its dirty and damaging infrastructure.
Erosion and Sediment Plan,
Chief's Dacheux Well Pad,
Cherry Township, Sullivan County, PA
Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee

I invite you to demonstrate where this argument fails.

You might argue, for example, that the argument for a tax is "being realistic," and that a tax is better than no tax.

The problem with this reasoning is that I have shown that a tax is far worse than no tax because it institutionalizes the industry in the state's fiduciary structure--with the implications I have spelled out.

You might argue that these implications-- social program dependence, education funding--don't necessarily follow. But indeed they do, and the history of the state shows it. Moreover, we cannot rationally believe otherwise given that Corbett has gutted these programs such that there exists a funding vacuum that Wolf is clearly prepared to fill with frack-dollars.

You might argue that there's no necessary connection between social program dependence and the weakening of already weak environmental and safety regulations. You're correct--there is no necessary relationship. But there will be an empirically demonstrable one since the need to fund these programs will continue--and for some escalate--creating pressure to generate more revenue. That just IS the history of taxation.

To use the language of "march lockstep to my edicts" is ad hominem and implies that I have acted in a dictatorial fashion. That is false--I have laid out arguments premised on reason and evidence, and to resort to this variety of name-calling only implies that because you can't offer reasoned and evidenced objections you're comfortable with punches that are below the belt. That is unbefitting a candidate for office.

That you are backing Wolf because--as you put it--you are a Democrat councilman is simply to say that you feel yourself compelled to march lock-step with your party regardless their positions. You are not so bound--and this is the pot calling the kettle black.

Wishing myself and Glover the best is wholly disingenuous and easy for you because it costs you no political capital. I also am not interested in being patronized--and your claim about being disappointed that winning does not mean people will simply "shut up" and follow orders is just that. But it is consistent with your strategic attack to get readers here to identify a clear and resolute position with "lock-step" and dictatorial.

This is how those who want to have it both ways--be identified as anti-fracking, all the while acting in a fashion that is in fact complicit with the gas industry--paint those who are genuinely anti-fracking as irrational because we argue that given the failures of regulation and the inherent hazards of extraction infrastructure, the only morally defensible rational position to take is to fight for a ban.

But your unwillingness to take up this fight can neither be identified as moral nor rational--and one evidence for this is your willingness to paint those who'd defend a ban as the dictatorial radicals in order to make yourself appear reasonable. But in this case appearances are deceiving.
Truck with unspecified filled containers heading up narrow muddy road to frack operations, Dacheux Well Pad
Cherry Township, Sullivan County, PA. Photo, Wendy Lynne lee

Your promotion of a tax is not morally defensible because--as I have shown--it will lead to indefensibly harmful consequences. Now that you know this, to continue to defend the tax can only be seen as politically expedient--about being electable--but it is not anti-fracking.

The time to defend a tax, to defend regulation--especially in the face of pieces like this one--to defend "best practices" is over. None of us have a right to this ignorance--least of all those who'd pretend to represent us. To make this claim is not dictatorial, sectarian (and nathan Sooy would have it) or narrow. It is realistic. It is to acknowledge the fundamental truth that none of us involved in this struggle have any right to find one iota of this article about silencing surprising.

We all know better, and it is high time we acted like it.

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