ACCORDING TO LIZ - We have problems in Los Angeles, and conservatives like to point the finger at Democratic wokeness as being to blame.
However, both here and in Washington, DC, the issue isn’t progressive values or actions taken to ensure more equitable treatment of all Americans, it is the mixed messages sent by the Democratic Party itself dispensing lip-service platitudes while continuing a tone-deaf approach to voters’ needs.
In DC, what side deal led to Biden capitulating to the Willow sale?
And, if there is no accountability, no transparency at the White House, why would we expect any here?
In his 2020 campaigning, Biden promised to ban new oil and gas permits on public lands and waters, and did stop permitting new federal offshore and onshore leasing and he did cancel the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline.
ConocoPhillips has held leases to the Willow Project land for more than two decades. Legal experts warned that the administration could be sued for breach of contract if Biden refused to allow drilling, and forced to pay up to $5 billion. What’s $5 billion against endangered wildlife, poisoned water supplies, and human health, against the life of the planet itself?
What’s $5 billion when taken against 180,000 barrels of oil per day, 600 million over 30 years and over 300 million tons of greenhouse gases? That’s more greenhouse gas emissions than on any other development on public land, more than the combined emissions of two million passenger cars over the same period of time.
In a really sick joke, the administration claims they wrung a concession out of this disaster by only approving three of the five building sites.
Instead of construction of at least 219 wells, 35 miles of roads, and hundreds of miles of pipelines, plus airstrips and a new central oil processing facility, this would reduce construction by 11 miles of road and 20 miles of pipeline. Wow.
The destructive infrastructure will still get built, the oil will be pumped and transported and refined and burned, increasing CO2 emissions every step of the way.
And the numbers used are based on a 30-year lifespan. But the Willow Project could be using even more terrible technologies to continue to siphon black gold out of the Arctic three decades from now, persisting in its reckless contributions to global warming.
Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, said that “public lands belong to every single American, not just one industry.” If so, why did Biden cave?
Willow will also open the gates to future oil and gas development for decades to come. Because once Biden has said yes once, how can he say no to other demands?
Even before this disastrous deal, support for Biden based on his efforts on climate change dropped from 82% to 69% among Democrats, and from 37% to 30% for Independents, while that of the 18-29 cohort of voters plummeted from 48% to 35%.
And, once pollsters explicitly told subjects of the Willow Project sell-out after Biden’s campaign promise to ban fossil fuel leasing on public lands, that approval tumbled 33 points among Democrats and 12 points among Independents.
In a similar way, Gavin Newsom constantly represents himself as leading the fight against climate change but has taken absolutely none of the hard steps necessary to stop fracking or limit oil and gas exploitation in California. The oil-well set-back bill Newsom signed, Senate Bill 1137, was clear tokenism.
Even given the documented health damages to Californians, especially those in communities of color, it still wouldn’t remove the existing wells within the 3,200 food “health protection zone” of homes, schools, healthcare facilities, dorms and businesses; it wouldn’t stop companies from re-opening long-abandoned wells around which housing had subsequently been built to fracking which is far more toxic to human health, especially children, seniors and the already health-compromised adults.
And Newsom had to know that the financially flush oil industry would get their lobbyists to flock into action, demanding a referendum on the matter, delaying implementation if not knocking the law out of the oilfields entirely. At least until after his retirement.
In Los Angeles, we’ve had a decade of pious prayers from our City Council relying on Sacramento to do the heavy lifting while encouraging more and more climate-damaging construction.
Ostensibly, this is to house the homeless but the costs don’t make sense unless these are primarily market rate units, and the City already has far more vacant housing than we have homeless.
The hard step will be for the Mayor to step away from the developer-flogging “Build, Baby, Build” approach and start finding ways to roll back and control the rents charged by the Wall-Street profiteers. This while finding ways to bolster the earnings of the most poverty-stricken Angelenos to allow them to move up a tier of housing, so that the places they vacate can be made available to those currently on the street.
While providing needed services and ombudsmen support to take on all challenges. And yes, solutions will require all levels of government to take action together.
These are not issues of Democrats and Republicans, but of human rights and decency.
As a fiscal conservative, I believe that increasing the income of all Angelenos will benefit the City’s economy far more than leaving people on the street and incurring the environmental depredations of developers.
The Turks have a proverb applicable to such siloization of situations: The fish stinks first at the head. Our City has big problems because the levels of government above it set such poor examples.
In the same way, the Democratic Party has a huge problem: their organization stinks from the top which is why it continues to repel the ordinary people who used to be its most assured supporters.
Don’t just read this, speak up, speak out, and become the change you want to see.
(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)