This week Greenpeace released a report entitled “Polluting Democracy: Coal Plays Dirty on the Hill.” The report connects the dots between the amount of money members of Congress take from the coal industry and their actions to undermine EPA regulations at coal plants. A few key players quickly rose to the top of the “Dirty Money team”, including Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Representative Eric Cantor. What a shocker…those that have been most vocal against EPA’s new protections against dirty coal plants took the largest amount of money from the coal industry. But what about those that have remained relatively quiet? What about our allies? Turns out the coal industry’s influence on Capitol Hill runs deeper than I thought.
Last week, Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette, long-term environmental champion and clean air defender, voted against allowing EPA to regulate coal ash, a dangerous and toxic bi-product of coal combustion. Why would Congresswoman DeGette, after years of defending public health and environment, vote to allow utilities to dispose of this toxic waste with little or no thought to its impact on surrounding communities?
Unlike some of the big players highlighted in the “Dirty Money team”, Representative DeGette receives relatively little money from the coal industry. She has, however, consistently taken money from Xcel Energy, the largest utility in Colorado that provides over 70% of its energy from coal. Thanks to some research by our friends at WildEarth Guardians, we also know that her former environmental legislative director, Steven Plevniak now works as a lobbyist for Xcel Energy on Capitol Hill. Suddenly it is all starting to make sense.
It appears as if even our allies are getting cozy with the coal industry these days. Where have all of our leaders in Congress gone? Is there anyone that will stand up to the coal industry and defend public health over corporate handouts? Congresswoman DeGette, this Colorado voter is disappointed in you.