The Week in Review
May 28, 2010
The massive BP oil spill that gushed from a mile-deep hole in the Gulf of Mexico spewed much more oil than the company at first acknowledged, government scientists concluded on Thursday. The gulf spill is now the worst in U.S. history, replacing the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster for that dubious distinction. "One of the most beautiful and productive coastal regions of the world is being turned into a giant cesspool," Senator Bernie Sanders wrote of the slow-motion disaster, "and in the midst of a major recession thousands of workers are going to lose their livelihoods."
Offshore Drilling Ban Sanders on Thursday introduced legislation that would ban offshore drilling along America's ocean coasts and increase fuel efficiency in American cars. The measure would prohibit drilling in the Pacific and Atlantic continental shelves and off Florida's gulf coast. Opening all of America's coastal waters to drilling would yield such a modest boost in petroleum supplies that the price of gas would dip 3-cents a gallon. "Is 3-cents a gallon in the year 2030 worth the potential risk of another disaster?" Sanders asked. "I don't think it is." Do you think the risk of offshore drilling is too great? To take our new survey, click here. The senator's proposal has received a great deal of support from various groups. To read a letter from 22 supportive groups, click here.
Better Gas Mileage Sanders' bill also would set a fuel economy standard of 55 miles per gallon, up from an average of 35 mpg that American car makers must achieve by 2030. China, Japan, Canada, South Korea and European nations already have more aggressive standards than the U.S. In Europe, for example, cars already get the equivalent of 42 mpg and by 2020 will be required to get at least 65 mpg. Under Sanders' legislation, the improved fuel economy standard for American cars would translate into a savings of $1.43 per gallon of gas. To read the senator's column in the Guardian, click here.
Make BP Pay At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Sanders was skeptical when Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli echoed BP assurances that the oil company will pay for economic losses tied to the massive gulf oil spill. "You may be one of the few people in America that trusts them," the senator told the No. 3 official in the Justice Department. Sanders said Congress should lift the current $75 million cap on oil company liability for economic damages. "It is beyond comprehension that you have an oil company making over $5 billion in profits in the first quarter of this year at the same time as you have the nation running a record-breaking deficit that the taxpayers of this country should be asked to pay one nickel in costs," Sanders said. To watch the senator at Tuesday's hearing, click here.
Fighting Fraud A military spending bill that passed the Senate on Thursday includes a Sanders amendment to make a federal contractor fraud database accessible to the public. The Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System is a database created by the Clean Contracting Act of 2008 that lists incidences of misconduct by federal contractors. The database is an important tool for tracking the behavior of federal contractors. It lists prior findings of liability relating to federal contracts, including findings from criminal, civil, and administrative proceedings. The database also lists whether the contractor has ever defaulted on a prior federal contract. Finally, it lists whether contractors have engaged in such egregious behavior to have been suspended or disbarred from contracting. The Sanders amendment would require that the database be posted on the Internet, ensuring that the public has access to this critical, public information about where their tax dollars are going. "We cannot let corporations rip off American taxpayers," Sanders said.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell The House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee voted on Thursday in favor of ending the ban on gays serving openly in the military. As the measure moves to the full Senate, Sanders on Friday told a caller on The Thom Hartmann Show that he supports ending the 18-year-old policy.
Audit the Fed One of the most successful gambits in the Senate financial reform bill recently passed by the Senate was the audit-the-Fed movement led by Sanders, according to the edition of Rolling Stone now on newsstands. Sanders managed to pass an amendment to force the Fed to open its books to congressional scrutiny. The Sanders amendment was perhaps the headline victory to date in the ongoing ‘War for Finance Reform,' according to Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi.
Milk Monopoly The Justice Department is scrutinizing the market power of big dairy cooperatives to assess the effect on prices farmers receive. Sanders urged the Justice Department to investigate, according to an article in the latest edition of BusinessWeek magazine. Sanders also met with the CEO of the Dairy Farmers of America co-op to urge him to conduct his business in farmers' interest, not the interests of processors. To read the article, click here.
Economic Stimulus Vermont has received almost $1 billion under the economic stimulus program, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to a new breakdown on the program passed in 2009 to counter the severe recession. By the end of April, more than 60,000 people in Vermont had received expanded unemployment benefits. The White House Council of Economic Advisers estimated that more than 7,000 jobs were created or saved in Vermont through the end of March. As of May 1, the state had received $279,335,120 for transportation, energy, and other shovel-ready projects.
Jobs in Rural Communities Just this week, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced stimulus fund grants and loans designed to create jobs in rural communities. The historic St. Johnsbury Athenaeum won a $136,000 energy efficiency grant. The Rutland Free Library was awarded $44,600 for new equipment. A $1.4 million loan will help renovate and expand the Lamoille Valley Community Health Center in Morrisville. The Parks Place Community Center got a $5,000 grant, and $41,200 went to the town of Richford to purchase an ambulance.
Energy Efficiency in Vermont In another stimulus program, the U.S. Department of Energy announced Thursday that Vermont has weatherized 847 homes using funds from the program. Vermont is the first state in the nation to weatherize more than 50 percent of all targeted homes. By making low-income homes more energy efficient, families save an average of $437 on their energy bills. "States like Vermont are moving forward aggressively with the weatherization program, delivering energy and cost savings for the families who need it most," said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
Bass Capitol The national magazine Outdoor Life named Burlington, Vt. the best place in America for bass fishing. The magazine wrote, “Burlington sits on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, which, outside of the Northeast, is not widely recognized for its bass fishing. However, it has been a popular stop on the professional bass circuit for years. Holding both smallmouth and largemouth bass, Champlain is 120 miles long, 10 miles wide and 400 feet deep. In other words, you'll never run out of water to explore in search of lunkers.” Sen. Sanders was mayor of Burlington for much of the 1980s and led a major revitalization of the city’s treasured waterfront. About the national recognition he said, “Vermont is a great place to vacation and enjoy the outdoors. We are proud to be recognized for all we have to offer.”