Canvass With Swing Left in District 21

By Dave Halsing

Editors’ note: The information in this article is presented by Swing Left East Bay, one of IEB’s community partners.

Swing Left East Bay is an all-volunteer group that connects East Bay residents to events aimed at “flipping” House seats in nearby Congressional districts in the November 2018 election: electing Democrats in districts that currently have Republican representatives. Swing Left East Bay volunteers focus on canvassing, a high-impact method to connect with voters by knocking on doors where registered Democrats and unregistered voters live. Our primary goals are to provide information and increase voter awareness, registration and participation. Because our ultimate goal is to win elections, we target “flippable” – that is, winnable – Congressional districts.

Bay Area volunteers are focusing mainly on California Congressional districts 10 (CA-10, Modesto) and 21 (CA-21, Fresno County). Both are represented by Republicans who are fully committed to the destructive Trump and Republican Party agenda, and Swing Left and other Democratic activist groups have been working in both. Because CA-10 is closer to the Bay Area it has gotten the most attention, but since we must win in CA-21 (only 3 hours away) to retake control in Congress, we’re ramping up our work and calls for volunteers there. 

PLEASE SIGN UP TODAY TO JOIN SWING LEFT EAST BAY IN CA-21!

Canvassing is THE MOST EFFECTIVE strategy to flip Republican districts to the Democratic column. Most first-time canvassers find it rewarding and fun, and easier than they thought it would be. The canvassing app we use with tablets or smart phones guides our conversations and records all responses. The data is uploaded immediately, so it can be shared with other groups to get the most out of our interactions and avoid duplicating efforts. We train you on-site right before you start, and will pair you with an experienced canvasser if you want. 

Volunteers have the option to meet up in the East Bay and carpool to the canvassing location. Many volunteers choose to spend a night there between two days of canvassing, but that’s not required. See more details on carpooling and lodging options below.

Note that while we have a real need for canvassing volunteers in general, we’re especially looking to increase the number with a working knowledge of Spanish. PLEASE share this request with your Spanish-speaking friends and family members.

Our canvassing is working!

In a single weekend in mid-January, our group of 10-12 East Bay-based Swing Left volunteers knocked on 832 doors over one and a half days. We talked with 160 residents, a contact rate of over 19% – almost double the expected rate. We got approximately 40-50 pledge cards from people who said they are committed to voting for the Democratic candidate.

The likely CA-21 Democratic candidate, Emilio Huerta, was also out canvassing the neighborhood that weekend. We gave people information on Huerta, who learned community organizing and leadership from his mother, Dolores Huerta, the famed labor organizer and activist. A lifelong resident of the Central Valley, Huerta has deep roots to the community and is now a practicing civil rights lawyer. We also informed people about Republican incumbent David Valadao, including his negative voting record to repeal the Affordable Care Act and cut corporate taxes, and his denial of climate change and opposition to same-sex marriage.

Upcoming Canvassing Events

Please visit the Swing Left CA-21 Calendar and sign up for a canvassing/voter registration event! Please RSVP so the host can schedule enough turfs and provide snacks and water.

In the details for each event on the calendar, you’ll find a link to a shared spreadsheet to sign up to carpool from the Bay Area (either as driver or passenger). Free lodging is available with 2 weeks’ notice (sleeping bags on a carpeted floor of a church that has offered to also provide breakfast if needed). The Hotel Piccadilly, 2305 W Shaw Ave, Fresno is a very good budget hotel option for ~$77/night. There are also Airbnb and HomeAway options available with other team members if you’re interested.

The next canvassing events include:

For more information, please contact canvassCA21@gmail.com

Dave Halsing is a project manager at an environmental consulting firm; his recent projects combine restoration, flood protection, and recreation in and around the margins of San Francisco Bay and other tidal areas in Northern California. 

 

 

 

 

Do No Harm, Mostly: Federal Government Opening New Doors to Denial of Health Care for Women

In January 2018, the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced its decision to offer support to medical professionals who decline to provide care – primarily abortion- and transgender-related healthcare – because of their personal beliefs. These beliefs don’t have to be written down anywhere, don’t have to be part of an organized religion or group, and don’t even have to be beliefs that anyone else holds. The person just has to say, “This goes against my conscience,” and the newly-empowered HHS Office of Civil Rights will get to work on finding ways to help them defend that belief by denying care.

This opens a valley-sized doorway to denial of care. This isn’t religious freedom: it’s a taxpayer-funded tool that will allow caregivers to hurt people who might depend on them.

While this might sound like a huge change or an affront to the Hippocratic Oath, belief-motivated denial of care isn’t a new concept in American health care. In fact, since 2010, more and more women have been reporting that they were denied abortion care or tubal ligation (having your “tubes tied” to ensure sterility), even in cases of emergency, right from their hospital bed.

Tamesha Means sits in a living room with two other people, one of them a young boy. Family photos crowd two large frames on the wall above them.
Tamesha Means suffered a miscarriage at 18 weeks; the miscarriage, a painful and traumatic experience, lasted days. Rather than offer abortion care that could have saved Tamesha from untold suffering, her Catholic hospital sent her home with Tylenol three times. Image: ACLU.

The reason behind the denials is simple: these women are in Catholic hospitals that follow the Catholic Directives, a series of rules laid out by bishops that specify what Catholic hospitals can and cannot do. In 2016, one in six hospital beds in the United States was in a hospital bound to the Catholic Directives; in California, it’s almost precisely that percentage, with the Directives covering 15.9% of all beds. It gets worse when you talk about health-related emergencies: Catholic hospitals control at least 40% of all acute care beds in five states. Ten of the nation’s 25 largest health system are Catholic-owned. And the situation only grows worse every time a Directives-bound organization buys up another hospital or health system. If you weren’t aware of any of this, you’re not alone: you can blame the fragmented and opaque structure of the American health care system for the largely unnoticed proliferation of Catholic hospitals.

On the ground, this translates directly into a significant reduction in the number of reproductive care procedures women receive. There are health systems in the country where women, particularly those in rural areas, don’t have access to a hospital that will care for their reproductive needs. This impacts their lives in countless ways.

Crucially, these hospitals also refuse to train new doctors in how to perform abortion, which is a very safe and relatively straightforward procedure for someone with the right expertise to perform. In Texas, for example, there are barely any clinics or universities left that offer courses in abortion. Volunteer groups like Medical Students for Change are doing what they can to train practitioners and keep this knowledge alive, but they face incredible challenges in their work. 

We’re going to see more and more of this, too, as HHS gets more familiar with its new powers.

This situation has led to devastating consequences for women seeking care. This report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) details case after case where women were subjected to painful and traumatic miscarriages, some of them lasting days, which would have been alleviated by abortion care in any non-Catholic hospital. There are cases where women who have reached their ideal family size, or who need to avoid pregnancy for medical reasons, were denied sterility procedures. Weaving throughout the stories are statements from doctors and nurses who wanted to provide the best care for their patients, including abortion care, but who were kept from doing so by hospital administrators.

A close-up of Mindy Swank sitting in a family room.
Mindy Swank was thrilled to discover she was pregnant a second time; she was devastated when she miscarried, and sought medical help when her body couldn’t complete the process. Her Catholic hospital refused to perform an abortion despite multiple hemorrhages and undeniable proof that Mindy’s baby wouldn’t survive. They finally induced labor at 27 weeks, when Mindy was hemorrhaging severely and after she had endured weeks carrying a baby she knew couldn’t live. Her baby died a few hours after delivery. Image: The Journal-Register.

This isn’t how health care should operate. Patients have the right to determine what happens to their body, and they have a right to have that spectrum of care include procedures and medicines that are safe and readily available, without having some options foreclosed because the practitioner objects to them. The ACLU and others have struggled to prosecute cases around denial of care based on religion or morality for numerous reasons, including the complexity and narrowness of medical malpractice law.

As with all things, the best way to remedy this situation is to elect lawmakers and local officials who will stand up for their constituents’ right to access health care with no strings attached. We hope you’ll join us in 2018 as we put in the work that will lead to a future where this ridiculous, discriminatory, and potentially life-threatening rule is completely rescinded, and Catholic hospitals are required to provide a complete spectrum of care to their patients.

No Taxation Without Representation

More than 6 million American citizens are not permitted to vote because they have a past criminal conviction. California is better than many states in allowing formerly incarcerated people to vote once they have successfully finished probation, but nearly 180,000 California citizens, most of them people of color, are prohibited from voting only because they’re in state prison or on parole. Initiate Justice, which advocates for “people directly impacted by incarceration, inside and outside prison walls,” believes this is a wrong that can be righted; the Voting Restoration and Democracy Act of 2018 (VRDA), their statewide ballot initiative, would restore voting rights to these citizens and prohibit the disenfranchisement of voters because they are imprisoned or on parole for a felony conviction.

Help California join Maine and Vermont, currently the only states that don’t deprive felons of their right to vote even while they’re incarcerated. For more information see this article about states’ varied approaches to voting rights for felons; and read Restoring the Right to Vote, a pdf booklet by the Brennan Center for Justice.

In order to get the VRDA initiative on the November 2018 California ballot, Initiate Justice needs to get more than 550,000 signatures from registered CA voters by April 17, 2018. You can help:

  • Before you begin, read complete talking points; and watch the video at this page
  • This page on the Initiate Justice website has complete instructions and links for you to download and print signature-gathering petitions, or have them mailed to you
  • Want to help more? Email IEB’s voting team, or join the voting-issues channel on Slack (email info@indivisibleeb.org for an invite to IEB’s Slack platform).

And while we’re on the subject — all of you who ARE eligible to vote, don’t squander that precious right! Please, right now:

  • Are you eligible and not registered? Register online to vote in California
  • Do you have to re-register? Check when you must, here, and if so, re-register!
  • Haven’t checked your registration? Check it now!
  • Do you know any 16- or 17- year olds? Check their eligibility, and help them pre-register online, to vote at 18!
  • Then: ask everyone you know the above questions, and if they’re eligible to vote, help them follow the same steps.

Here are some other very helpful sites which can be used for people in states other than California.

  • Vote.org offers lots of information, and it’s easy to remember (note that it requires you to provide an email address)
  • Indivisible has partnered with TurboVote to help you sign up to receive election reminders, get registered to vote, apply for your absentee ballot, and more
  • The National Association of Secretaries of States’ website helps eligible voters figure out how and where to vote
 Graphic by Democracy Chronicles / Creative Commons

Liberty and Justice For All

“Liberty and Justice for All” – these are words we don’t always associate with this administration’s immigration policy. But Contra Costa Deputy Public Defender Immigration Attorney Ali Saidi informed and inspired a large crowd in El Sobrante on January 27 about “Immigration Realities” and the new, innovative Stand Together CoCo immigrant rapid-response program. Courageous Resistance / Indivisible El Sobrante – Richmond hosted the talk, which was attended by local political leaders, community members, and representatives of progressive groups including Indivisible East Bay and CA-11 Team United.

Saidi outlined Stand Together CoCo, which will officially begin on March 1 and will provide wide-ranging education and support services and some legal consultation and services. Among these services:

  • Paid community responders will staff a 24/7 hotline to verify and provide accurate information about immigration-related activities reported in the community.
  • Team members will be dispatched when necessary to respond to reports of ICE raids.
  • Legal observers will document and collect data.
  • Community Supporters will provide immediate support to families and individuals who have been targeted or detained.
  • When possible, lawyers will meet with detainees (at present, there is funding for only three lawyers).

The program will also hold education and support events all over the county, including Know Your Rights, legal consultation and services, workshops for people detained in the West County Detention Facility, clinical consultations, and training for trainers/leadership development.

The audience was eager to hear how it could help, and Saidi provided a Volunteer Interest Form with a variety of ways community members can step up to support  immigrant neighbors and friends. The volunteer program, which is being administered primarily by Catholic Charities of the East Bay, is looking for people interested in conducting Know Your Rights presentations or helping with outreach to spread the word about immigrant rights and the hotline; presenters to assist at community meetings; supporters who can accompany people to ICE appointments or help them find resources; and more.

If you want to volunteer to help, please fill out the online volunteer application. Have questions? You can email Joseline Gonzalez Soriano, Stand Together CoCo’s Interim Coordinator, for information. More info will be posted soon on the Catholic Charities’ website.

You can also help by spreading the word about Stand Together CoCo and other rapid response networks. See this list of networks in California to report ICE activity and enforcement. To report ICE action in Contra Costa before March 1, contact Alameda County’s rapid response program, ACILEP, at 510-241-4011.  

Saidi, whose family moved from Tehran, Iran, to Los Angeles when he was five years old, recalled that he didn’t really understand the Pledge of Allegiance when he said it in school for the first time, but he liked the sound of the final words: “Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Saidi encouraged the audience to work for “liberty and justice for all,” and emphasized that the words are not a description of what America is but of what it might be – and that “pledge” means committing to putting in the work to reach the goal. We at Indivisible East Bay could not agree more.

Photograph of Ali Saidi by Judy Weatherly,  Courageous Resistance / Indivisible El Sobrante – Richmond 
Judith Tannenbaum contributed to this article. Judith is a writer and teacher. Her books include Disguised as a Poem: My Years Teaching Poetry at San Quentin.

Protect the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

By Christina Tarr

First enacted in 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) makes it a crime to “pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, attempt to take, capture or kill,” possess, sell, purchase, or ship any migratory bird or any part, nest or egg of a migratory bird unless authorized by regulation. More than a thousand bird species are currently protected under the statute. It has saved many species of birds, including the snowy egret, from extinction.

The MBTA provides industry with incentive to adopt simple practices that save birds’ lives, such as covering oil waste pits, and it gives government the ability to enforce accountability and recovery after events that kill large numbers of birds. After the Gulf oil spill killed one million birds, for instance, MBTA enforcement was responsible for BP paying $100 million to restore habitat. Read more about the history of the Act here.

But now Republican-introduced legislation in Congress (HR 4239) and a new interpretation of the MBTA by the Department of the Interior could end the Act’s effectiveness in holding industries accountable for bird deaths by removing its authority to prohibit “incidental take.” These proposals would prevent enforcement of “incidental” bird deaths, thus removing incentive for good practices and eliminating penalties for industry practices that kill birds. You can read the Interior Department’s Memorandum M- 37050, “The Migratory Bird Treaty Act Does Not Prohibit Incidental Take” here.

Of local interest is our own Lake Merritt, declared a National Wildlife Refuge in 1869 (the oldest in the United States), and an important stop for migratory birds on the Pacific flyway. Click here to see the migratory and resident birds you can find at Lake Merritt.

Please call your members of Congress and tell them to uphold the MBTA and its current provisions:

Also, contact the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, at feedback@ios.doi.gov

What to say:

Please defend the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, including the Act’s ability to address the incidental take of birds. The MBTA has saved many species of birds from extinction for decades under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Proposals like HR 4239 and the new interpretation by the Department of the Interior would threaten the MBTA’s ability to protect birds and prevent collateral environmental damage. Please defend against attacks on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

For more information, check out the National Audubon Society’s Action Center’s talking points.

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.

Photo of egret in Lake Merritt by Heidi Rand

Join a Phone Banking Party!

Local progressive groups with extensive phone banking experience are holding phone banks to reach out to voters in other states ahead of upcoming election. Phone and text banking are extremely effective ways people in blue areas can help flip red or purple districts.

The hosts will gladly train you on the script and how to make the calls. Bring your phone, charger, earbuds (for your comfort), and a laptop or tablet (or when you sign up, let them know you’d like to borrow one). Don’t forget your good cheer and positive energy to resist — and your friends!

For full info, including locations, times, and a link to RSVP, go to the Commit to Flip Blue website and enter your zip code into the search box.

And check out these upcoming phone banks (mostly in Oakland) listed by Sister District and Together We Will on Eventbrite:

Sister District/Together We Will Oakland Phone Bank Parties
 
  • Sunday, January 28, 2018, 12:00-3:00 PM PST, Oakland – Temescal (near BART)
  • February 4, 2018, 12:00-3:00 PM PST, Oakland – Rockridge (near BART)
  • February 11, 2018, 12:00-3:00 PM PST, Oakland – West Oakland, Emeryville border
  • February 13, 2018, 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM PST, Oakland – Upper Dimond District
Save the Date in El Cerrito – hosted by Sister District/Together We Will
  • Monday, February 12, 2018, 2:00-5:00 PM PST, El Cerrito – East Richmond Heights
Graphic © Sister District

Let’s Show Trump What Resistance to Offshore Drilling Looks Like!

Thirteen hundred miles of coastline on the West Coast – over a thousand in California alone, counting the Channel Islands – would be threatened by the a Trump administration’s proposal to expand offshore oil drilling. And yet, the Republicans have scheduled only one public hearing on this outrageous threat to the environment and public health. A coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing to protest; join and make your voice heard!

Trump recently announced his disastrous plan to hand over the Pacific Ocean – as well as the Arctic, Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico – to oil companies keen to expand offshore drilling off the California coast for the first time in over 30 years. Read the oily details of the proposed plan in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s press release.

Offshore drilling is a nightmare for people and the planet. It poisons our oceans, covers our beaches in oil, and directly threatens California’s superior coastal economy. It also deepens our dependence on fossil fuels, driving the climate change that accelerates sea level rise and fuels wildfires.

Join the fight to protect the California coast from new offshore drilling! Let’s show Trump and his oil cronies what resistance to their unending quest to wreck the planet looks like. Join us Thursday, February 8 in Sacramento to tell the Trump administration that offshore drilling and the oil spills, pipelines, and climate chaos that come with it are not welcome off our coast.

WHAT: Protest February 8 Against Offshore Drilling Off the California Coast – rally featuring powerful speakers, music, art, marching in the streets and lots of chanting

WHEN/WHERE: Thursday, February 8, 1:30–7:00 PM:

  • 1:30 PM – Meet at the North Steps of the California State Capitol, 1100 L St., Sacramento, for a press conference and rally
  • 2:30 PM – March to the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, 828 I Street, for the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) public meeting
  • 3:00 PM – Enter the meeting and let BOEM know that new drilling is not welcome off our coast or in any of our oceans.

GETTING THERE: On February 8 there will be buses to Sacramento from multiple cities including San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura / Santa Barbara. This is in the organizing stage, so sign up on the Facebook event page to get details as they develop.

Hosting Organizations: Center for Biological Diversity, Food & Water Watch California, Oceana Southern California, Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples, Save Our Shores, Sierra Club California, and other partnering organizations.

More details about the protest and RSVP here.

 

End the Tampon Tax

By Rosemary Jordan

California Assembly Bill 9, which would have exempted menstrual products from state sales tax, was introduced before the State Assembly in 2016 but has been held back by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Women across California have gotten LOUD about the absurdity of classifying these products as “luxury” items, and now we have a tiny window to advance a new bill (number pending) being worked on now.

There is still a chance we can #endthetampontax this year. To do that, we need EVERYONE – yes, that means YOU! – to make your voice heard by the Fab Four: Assembly Appropriations Committee Chair Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, Senator (and incoming State Senate President Pro Tempore) Toni Atkins, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and Governor Jerry Brown.

Please call, fax, email, post, visit them in Sacramento or send an urgent postcard. Better yet – do all of the above, and spread the word! Their contact info is below.

What to say:

My name is _____ and my zip code is ______. Taxing menstrual products is unjust and a further burden on those living in deep poverty. Please work to create a solution that advances gender equity. We can’t wait another year for equality and we’re convinced the resources can be found to make up for the lost tax revenue. Where there’s a will for justice, there is always a way. Please be a leader and a role model for equality and get this done! Thank you

Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher:
Capitol Office: State Capitol, Room 2114, P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0080
Tel: (916) 319-2080; Fax: (916) 319-2180
District Office: 1350 Front Street, Suite 6022, San Diego, CA 92101
Tel: 619-338-8090; Fax: 619-338-8099

Senator Toni Atkins:
Capitol Office: State Capitol, Room 4072, Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 651-4039; Fax: (916) 651-4939
San Diego District Office: 1350 Front Street, Suite 4061, San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619) 645-3133; Fax: (619) 645-3144

Speaker Anthony Rendon:
Capitol Office: State Capitol, Room 219, Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 319-2063; Fax: (916) 319-2163
District Office: 12132 South Garfield Avenue, South Gate, CA 90280
Phone: (562) 529-3250; Fax: (562) 529-3255

Governor Edmund G. Brown:
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 445-2841; Fax: (916) 558-3160

Rosemary Jordan is Co-Founder of Alameda4Impeachment, a registered Indivisible group and a partner in the Citizens Impeachment Coalition, which includes representatives of cities, towns and counties nationwide (including four in the East Bay) that have passed local Impeachment resolutions. Rosemary also serves on the Steering Committee of All Rise Alameda and is co-leader of the End The Tampon Tax In California campaign. She has over 20 years of professional experience in healthcare and aging.

Who’s Endorsing Contra Costa Sheriff Livingston? And Why?

By Champagne Brown and Judith Tannenbaum

Although the filing period to elect the Contra Costa Sheriff hasn’t even opened yet, some local Democratic representatives have already endorsed incumbent Sheriff David Livingston in his re-election bid. This is the Sheriff who:

Several groups working on criminal justice and immigration issues, including Together We Will,  are concerned about Democratic representatives supporting Sheriff Livingston’s re-election. They also ask what effect the endorsements, made before the February 12 to March 9 filing period, will have on any potential progressive candidate who might consider running.

Although it’s sadly likely Sheriff Livingston will run unopposed, we must speak out against his record and make sure none of our Democratic representatives supports him. Check the current list of endorsers on Livingston’s website to see whether any of them represents you (find your state representative here; find your Member of Congress here). If so, please call and demand that they retract their endorsement of a candidate who does not represent the values of their constituents or party.  If your representative has not endorsed Livingston, please call to thank them and to ask that they NOT endorse him. See below for sample call scripts and contact info for both situations.

Endorsers as of January 23:

What to say:

Hi. My name is ___, my zip code is ___. I’m calling to express my disappointment that _________ has endorsed Sheriff Livingston for reelection. It’s shocking to me that  _________ would endorse a candidate for Sheriff whose record doesn’t align with the values of their constituents or party. It’s especially shocking that this endorsement appears before the filing period has even opened. I ask that ____________  retract their endorsement immediately. Thank you.

If none of the endorsers represents you, call your Member of Congress and state representatives (use the links above to find them if you don’t know them; contact info below as well).

What to say:

Hi. My name is ___, my zip code is ___. I’m shocked at the local Democrats who have already endorsed Sheriff Livingston for re-election, even before the filing period. Please don’t endorse Livingston. I hope that instead you’ll encourage progressive Democratic candidates to run against the Sheriff. I also ask you to speak with Congressmember Mike Thompson, State Senators Glazer and Dodd, and State Assemblymembers Frazier and Grayson to urge them to retract their endorsements.

Members of Congress

State Representatives

Contra Costa County Supervisors

Champagne Brown is a Social Service Worker and Community Activist who is a member of the Contra Costa Racial Justice Coalition and Black Women Organized for Political Action, where she serves as the Political Education Chair. 

Judith Tannenbaum is a writer and teacher. Her books include “Disguised as a Poem: My Years Teaching Poetry at San Quentin.”

Graphic © Together We Will Contra Costa

Protect Offshore Drilling Regulations!

By Christina Tarr

It seems it’s not enough for the Interior Department proposing to open all coastal waters of the United States (including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge but excluding Florida, apparently) to leasing for continental shelf oil and gas drilling (don’t forget to comment on that, by the way, and note that there will be public hearings on leasing for offshore drilling, including one in Sacramento on February 8). Now, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is asking to roll back offshore drilling safety regulations — the regulations that were put in place following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This is part and parcel of  Trump’s effort to cut back on all environmental protections to increase profits for his friends in the oil and gas business. Naturally, groups like the American Petroleum Institute and the National Ocean Industries Association are in favor.

A few things (among others) that the proposed rules do:

  • Delete a requirement that drillers propose to use only a safe amount of pressure in new wells
  • Loosen controls on blowout preventers, which seal off wells in case of an accident, and which currently are required to have a back-up plan in case of malfunction
  • Amend a standard that currently requires that equipment demonstrate that it can withstand a surge in pressure
  • Do away with third-party certification, which requires that an independent party confirm that equipment meets standards

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), which was created by the Obama Administration after the Deepwater Horizon spill, was never intended to promote oil production. It was kept separate from the leasing arm of the Interior Department to ensure that safety would not be compromised for profit. With these regulation changes, the BSEE now moves into a role as a promoter of industry, leaving no agency whose sole role is to promote safety. If we know anything about pipelines, it’s that they leak. The danger is increased exponentially when you are drilling miles offshore underwater. In essence, experts have concluded, the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon spill could have been prevented – and the proposed changes in regulations favor the oil industry and money over safety and the environment.

You can read a description of the proposed changes here, and you have until January 29, 11:59 PM EST to submit comments protesting the proposed rules. Submit comments here, and also read comments that have been made already.

Sample comment:

Do not weaken the current regulations on offshore drilling. The current regulations incorporate valuable lessons learned from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, when 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the sea, killing nearly a million seabirds and still causing effects in the Gulf. The proposed rules loosen controls on blowout preventers and third party certification that safety devices will work under the extreme conditions in which they are placed. The impact of another spill like the Deepwater Horizon, which the new rules practically guarantee, will far outweigh the benefits of reducing operating costs for oil companies that can well afford them.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement should be committed to the safety of offshore drilling operations, not with oil company profits. Strong regulation and an independent BSEE are needed to ensure that offshore drilling can coexist with other important uses of our coastline, including recreation, tourism, fishing and wilderness.

You can also sign up to receive more information about, or help plan, actions during the first two weeks of February to protest plans for the huge new federal offshore drilling program.

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.