25 May 2009

It Takes Money to Make Money

via DW, we find that Goliath is doing pretty well from a fund dedicated to cleaning up underground fuel tanks:
big firms have taken $490 million from the fund since it was created in 1989... the program has been extended repeatedly amid lobbying by the big, politically powerful corporations. Those companies are now positioned to collect up to $900 million more.

[snip]

And even though it is drivers who actually foot the bill, the corporations say that because they are ultimately responsible for the fees, they should not be barred from making claims on a substantial share of the fund.

"The oil industry has paid millions into this fund, it has always supported the fund, it has supported increases in the fees when appropriate," said Tupper Hull, a spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Assn., which helped craft the most recent legislation to extend the program.
This is hysterically funny to me. People pay the tax when they buy gas. The companies collect that tax and pass it to the State ("ultimately responsible"? "paid into the fund"?). Those companies then ask for that money to clean up leaks that THEY are responsible for.

Seems like the Twilight Zone has arrived in California!

So what do our leaders say?
lawmakers approved an extension then and again in 2008. It was one of the few measures Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed last year, when he made a point of vetoing almost everything lawmakers sent his way.

The program, originally set to expire in 2005, will live until at least 2016.

Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Lisa Page said the extensions have been "about continuing an environmental program that removes dirty underground oil tanks that are leaking."
Right. I'd say that this program is about drivers paying to clean up messes made by gas stations.

I'd also say that this funding mechanism creates ZERO incentive for oil companies to prevent spills. Yuck.

Bottom Line: This Baptists and Bootleggers scenario (the oil companies are "saving" the environment that they despoil with OUR money -- and taking a bit on the side) is a typical example of politicians and businesses conspiring to rip off citizens. I'd hate to see what else they will stuff into the next budget. (And I am not surprised that voters decided to cap legislators' salaries when the State is in deficit; that's the right response to incompetence!)