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Gov. Herbert: “Why are we drilling in the middle of the ocean where there is extreme environmental risk when we could be meeting the demand for domestic production from on-shore development in areas with minimal environmental risk such as Utah?”

As the magnitude of the Gulf Oil spill began unfolding, Utah's Republican Governor Gary Herbert decided to use the catastrophe as a talking point in his battle with the U.S. government over drilling policies on federal lands in Utah. Herbert is demanding more drilling for his Big Oil allies. Then this past weekend an oily disaster struck right in Salt Lake City. According to the Salt Lake Tribune "a leak from Chevron's underground oil pipeline may have gone undetected for hours as it spilled 50 gallons of crude a minute Saturday into Salt Lake City's Red Butte Creek. The oil blackened the east-side creek, stained scores of birds, prompted the closure of Liberty Park and sent oil as far west as the Jordan River."

"It's a tragedy. It is horrible." said J.T. Martin, chairman of the Salt Lake City Council. "The whole river corridor is contaminated. It is a major catastrophe for this area and for the city."

State water quality scientists were taking samples to determine oil concentrations. Depending on amounts, the spill could disrupt the food chain for the long term, killing bottom-dwelling invertebrates that feed fish, said Walt Baker, director of the state Division of Water Quality.

...Crews had positioned absorbent booms throughout the contamination path and, as a precautionary measure, on the Jordan River as far north as the Utah Fairpark, said Jeff Niermeyer, the city's director of public utilities.

"We do not want it to get into the Great Salt Lake," Freitag said. There, the lack of a current could allow oil to accumulate and affect even larger bird populations at the world-class flyway. However, he said, the oil appear to be stopped in the Jordan River.

River activist Jeff Salt planned to check out the Jordan River on Saturday night.

"What happens with the Jordan River that's of concern is the water feeds into the duck clubs and to Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area," he said. "Hopefully, there are preventive measures being installed at the key locations along the Jordan River to contain the oil before we get to the wildlife areas."

Residents were urged to avoid affected areas of the Jordan River, while Liberty Park and Red Butte Creek were expected to remain closed at least through today.

I didn't mean to point a finger at Republicans by mentioning that Herbert, with his cozy and profitable relationship with Big Oil, is one. The blame is one that is shared by corporatists and conservatives on both sides of the aisle. Blue Dog Jim Matheson sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a position that has made it profitable for Big Oil and Gas to pump $246,997 into his political career. Although Big Oil gives 75% of its political donations to Republicans, Matheson is so friendly to their agenda that he has gotten more than any other Utah House member... ever. In fact, he's gotten more than any two Utah House members and among the biggest pay-offs to any "Democrat" in the country. In return he looks after their interests on his key committee and subcommittees.

With Salt Lake City residents pissed off over the spill and looking for Chevron to minimize the damage to the environment, people are starting to wonder about the relationship between politicians like Gary Herbert and Jim Matheson to Big Oil and their Big Dollars. Are they looking out for the public interest in their dealings with these big companies? Or their own?

We contacted Claudia Wright, the reform-minded progressive running against Matheson in the June 22 Democratic primary, who was in Torrey on a tour of the sprawling district. "I believe this shows the need for targeted and precise government regulation and oversight for the Oil and Gas industries" she said. Commenting on Gov. Herbert's statement last week, she continued "I do not believe the answer to the disaster in the gulf is to drill more on land as Gov. Herbert has stated, or anywhere else for that matter. This confirms my belief that we need clean, renewable energy and we need it now. I am not sure why others cannot see this as the future and a reality, but I am convinced Utah can and must lead the way in developing better energy solutions for our and our children's future. Our current representative receives thousands from the Oil and Gas companies, where is he on this latest debacle? It's time the people are protected and not these multi-national polluters."

Claudia has already been tying the oil spill disaster to Matheson's oily donations.

Wright says that as a ranking member of the Energy and Commerce committee, Matheson should guide future policy and safety standards.

She implies that campaign donations from big oil are a keeping that from happening.

"I do think that money corrupts," Wright said. "Money corrupts the political process. That's fundamental."

Claudia has been endorsed by Blue America and this week we'll start running the ad below in parts of the district. If you go to the Let's Get Claudia On TV ActBlue page, you'll find a menu of TV programs, from CNN's American Morning ($5) and Situation Room ($7) through Rachel Maddow's show and Colbert's show ($16 each) to more diverse programs like Saving Grace and The Next Food Network Star for $25/each. It's easy, fun and inexpensive to make a contribution that could help replace an oily blue dog with an environmental reformer and a real progressive.

Originally posted to downwithtyranny on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 02:22 PM PDT.

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