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If there is anything abundantly clear in this morass of appointments that will adorn the palatial Trump candy store ... er ... cabinet, it's that the barons of the oil empire have merrily floated to the top.

Trump has picked Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma's attorney general and a climate change denier who supports all things oily, including fighting the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to curtail carbon dioxide emissions, to head that agency. Another Oklahoman, oil multi-billionaire Harold Hamm, has been in the running for months as possible Department of Energy chief. Hamm fervently believes more federal land should be opened to drilling and that fracking is the neatest thing since sliced bread. It seems to not matter to either man that disposal of toxic frack water has been shaking up their state with earthquakes for the past few years and at least 1,927 shakes in the past 365 days (earthquake.com).

Betsy DeVos' first lesson to the country as head of the Department of Education might be to enlighten us as to how much she and her family have learned from the oil billionaire Koch brothers in their exclusive charter school/club geared to adjusting government to better serve their businesses. The Department of Interior, perhaps the most crucial environmental post, is expected to go to five-term Washington state Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers. Interior manages public land for energy, mineral leasing and offshore drilling, as well as oversees national parks and preservation areas. Trump wants less regulation of coal and to increase oil and gas production both on and off shore, something Rodgers has voted for in the past.

The cherry on top of these posts, secretary of state, might go to Rex Tillerson, chief of Exxon Mobil, an oil company that knew 40 years ago that burning its fossil fuel was a major cause of global warming, but chose to keep its own science very quiet. Obviously these types of storm troopers, who are ready to strike back by slaying regulations and by satisfying rapacious power yearnings, appeal to the emperor-too-soon-be.

What are those who have struggled for decades to save the integrity of the air, water and land for the generations to come to do in the face of this empire's strength? Most likely, people who've always fought for the environment will keep doing so, but it will be even harder and the losses will be staggering, especially regarding climate change, chemical toxins, wildlife extinctions and fluctuating food production.

One fledgling example of an "onward!" spirit is the effort to stop the Diamond Pipeline, which will traverse the middle of Arkansas across hundreds of waterways. Last Saturday, the Arkansas Water Guardians held a "protect" rally in Fayetteville to raise awareness about the pipeline. They marched along Dickson Street with posters and chanted "water Is life," the mantra that held the Sioux tribe together in North Dakota during their efforts to prevent an oil pipeline passing under their water source. This new organization (arwaterguardians.org) is beginning research for possible legal action. Meetings, "protect" events and fundraisers are listed on the web page.

This "long black snake" set to cross Arkansas is being built by Plains All American, a pipeline company with a poor record for safety and for spills, such as the 2015 nine-mile destruction of beaches and ocean water ecosystems along the Santa Barbara, Calif., coast. Welspun, the makers of the pipe that is slated to be used to cross our state, also has a dubious safety and quality record. Plains Justice, an environmental organization, in a 2010 report wrote, "A number of companies are implicated in producing defective pipe, but it appears that Welspun Corp. Ltd, an Indian steel pipe manufacturer, produced most of it. For example, according to released documents, Welspun was responsible for 88 percent of pipe with expansion anomalies."

Grass-roots insurgence is the only chance the environment has against the well-oiled and greatly moneyed forces that are already chanting "drill, baby, drill." Polluting industries happily now see themselves throwing off the chains of laws that have slowed them from doing whatever they wish to the environment in the pursuit of yet more money.

If life continues to imitate art, perhaps environmentalists will rise from these current battles and return like Jedi warriors to save the green earth from turning into a greasy death star. And, maybe the ghost of Bernie Wan-Kenobi will hang around to remind us all that our anger could push us to the Dark Side.

May the force be with you -- for peace.

Commentary on 12/13/2016

Print Headline: The empires strike back

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