Without a trace of irony, U.S. fossils are asking Texas to fund a nearly 60-mile coastal “spine” to protect their operations from climate change. And without a hint of shame, the state’s legislators are abandoning their customary cost-cutting ways to line up behind the proposal.
The project would cost at least US$12 billion, and Texas expects taxpayers to pick up almost the entire tab, the Associated Press reports. The first $3.9 billion installment, for three projects to protect specific oil installations, was fast-tracked last month.
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The concrete seawalls, earthen barriers, floating gates, and steel levees along the Texas Gulf Coast “would protect homes, delicate ecosystems, and vital infrastructure,” AP explains. “But it also has another priority: to shield some of the crown jewels of the petroleum industry, which is blamed for contributing to global warming and now wants the federal government to build safeguards against the consequences of it.”
The focus is on a stretch of coastline from the Louisiana border to an area south of Houston that is “home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of petrochemical facilities, including most of Texas’ 30 refineries, which represent 30% of the nation’s refining capacity,” the news agency adds.
“The oil and gas industry is getting a free ride,” said Sierra Club executive committee member Brandt Mannchen. “You don’t hear the industry making a peep about paying for any of this, and why should they? There’s all this push like, ‘Please Senator Cornyn, Please Senator Cruz, we need money for this and that.’”
Texas senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz have indeed stepped up to support the coastal spine, as has Rep. Randy Weber, described by AP as a “fiercely conservative” legislator from suburban Houston who still drafted legislation to support the project. “The effects of the next devastating storm could be felt nationwide,” Weber said.
At the libertarian Cato Institute, economist Chris Edwards said Texas should be funding the project itself. “Texans are proud of their conservatism,” he told AP. “But unfortunately, when decisions get made in Washington, that frugality goes out the door.”
Suzanne Lemieux, midstream group manager for the American Petroleum Institute, said fossils already pay into federal trust funds that might have supported the project if Congress hadn’t diverted the dollars elsewhere. “Do we want to pay again, when we’ve already paid a tax without it getting used? I’d say the answer is no,” she said.