Government Extortion of Private Enterprise to Raise Revenue Instead of Taxation (1 Viewer)

Steve R.

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Under blackout threat, California may keep gas power plants state rushed to close

I've been contemplating to post on how governments (federal/state/local) have taken to filing lawsuits to extort money from corporations. This extortion is aimed at achieving two broad goals: 1) to raise revenue so that the local politicians don't have to make unpopular decisions on raising taxes or cutting services, and 2) to punish a company for alleged damages to the public/environment/social justice. This is going to be a very abbreviated post on that topic.

The article, I cited above is principally blaming "Green Initiatives" for the current predicament of power shortages in California. While a case could be made for that, it misses the significance that the State of California sued PG&E and forced them into bankruptcy to pay damages for "bad" maintenance of power lines.
PG&E reaches $11 billion settlement with California wildfire insurers. As can be expected, if you strip a company of its financial capabilities they cannot provide effective services, such a providing power in the case of PG&E. As for another quickie example: Fossil Fuels on Trial: Where the Major Climate Change Lawsuits Stand Today. This type of government action is very "Third World" and represents a threat to many companies, especially if they are being "attacked" for political reasons. If this trend continues, the US, or at least California for now, will be a "Third World" company like Venezuela, poor through bad corrupt politicians even-though we have the resources.
 
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The_Doc_Man

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Steve R., you and I are often on the same side of issues. However, here we might not be on the same page.

Louisiana is filing suit against oil and gas companies for damage to the wetlands because the O&G folks didn't live up to the requirements for oil drilling and extraction. We are losing wetlands (marsh, swamp, coastline) at an alarming rate. When Big Oil rapes the land and returns a mere pittance to help rebuild the destroyed land, something is dreadfully wrong.


The subsidence that led to this disaster was caused by draining oil without backfilling the oil dome, and exacerbated by all of the artificial bayous built for pipelines and transportation (by barge) of construction materials. The change in natural water flow totally screwed the erosion profile.


This was another Big Oil boondoggle, mismanagement of a salt dome used for brine.

In both cases, people lost their homes. In Isle de Jean Charles, the Choctaw Nation lost federally protected ancestral lands.

You think of it as extorting money from corporations. In these cases and several others, it is because corporate greed led to cutting corners resulting in a disaster. It doesn't matter that it was a gradual disaster. Someone has to be responsible for harming others or we have no rule of law. That is a key and cornerstone of the USA. We must take responsibility for what we do. For us, the yin and yang are rights and responsibilities.

I'm a believer in balance. I want people to have jobs and to be able to make good, honest money. But not when the side effects of that job result in damages to otherwise uninvolved 3rd parties. The late Will Rogers said it best: "Your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins."

That freedom to make a profit doesn't extend to "at the expense of lives and livelihoods of others." I am not usually an SJW, but I know what unregulated or improperly regulated businesses have done to the ecology of south Louisiana. I seek balance but I don't see it. This is one time when I'm in favor of regulation and in favor of punitive damages against excessively greedy or excessively negligent companies.

If you wish, we can agree to disagree, and I will be the first to say that ANYTHING including damage suits can be excessive. But when someone says "It's the cost of doing business" for people to be totally disrupted like the two cases I've shown, my response might well be "Perhaps you are in the wrong business."

We need to protect our wild lands and wetlands. After all, those alligators that live there are our friends.


 

Steve R.

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You are correct that companies company should be held responsible for their mistakes. Take the Deepwater Horizon oil spill debacle as one example of a company that needed to be held responsible (for disclosure, we own shares of British Petroleum). A company should be held responsible for their errors; however, there exists a slippery slope that eventually descends into the government assigning blame on a company that translates into using extortion to get money out of a company to punish it.

Picking an article, more or less at random: D.C. attorney general sues oil and gas companies, alleging industry misled public about climate change. "Attorney General Karl A. Racine said in a news conference Thursday that ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron have violated the District’s consumer protection law by presenting a “false picture” to residents about the damage their products have on the environment." On the surface, every company on Earth presents a "false picture" of their products. Every-time you drive a car, you are polluting the environment (even if it is an electric car). Every-time you light-up the BBQ you are incrementally contributing to "climate change". Then there are the absurd lawsuits that gun manufactures should be blamed and sued if a gun is used in a crime. Shouldn't the D.C. government then be suing everybody? Drawing the line between a company being at fault for its actions, or the government picking on the company for some political reason is hard to do; but there does need to be some rationality to it.

PS: I'm in full agreement that regulations are necessary to protect the environment. Environmental protection was part of my job before I retired. Furthermore, I find that many who foam-at-the-mouth about environmental protection are themselves unwilling to make the life-style changes they demand of others. (Such as those who can afford the use of personal jets still fly them.)

PS: As an additional concluding thought on PG&E, which was the subject of my original post, the attack on PG&E just did not "smell right". California is mountainous and subject to natural disaster such as wildfires and landslides. In fact a case can be made that people are being allowed by the government to build in areas that they should not be allowed to build in. Providing electricity to many of these areas is difficult and Mother Nature is not necessarily cooperative. PG&E was blamed for not "properly maintaining the power lines". An ambiguous statement. I can't really comment on the validity of the accusation that PG&E did not "properly maintaining the power lines", but given the nature of where people were being allowed to build and the known extent of natural hazards, PG&E appeared to be getting unfairly blamed.
 
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Pat Hartman

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I think we were in the same frame of mind today. I alluded to the PG&E problem in a different post. Articles I read a few years ago pointed out that part of proper line maintenance is clearing the area beneath and next to the power lines to remove dangling branches and brush. The most efficient way to do this is with controlled burns in remote areas but the tree-huggers lobbied the government to prevent this. That left them with only manual labor which is way too expensive to be cost effective and so they skimped. I'm not sure what difference it makes if you burn brush or pull it out by its roots. You are still killing it if it is not already dead so why not allow the company to do what it does best in the most efficient way?

I also agree that people shouldn't be building in dangerous areas and I'm including barrier islands and large parts of New Orleans. I think that the American people have paid to rebuild New Orleans three times in the last century. Some experts say that all the work the Army Corps of Engineers does to "control" the Mississippi is what is causing miles of the Louisiana coast to disappear every year but what do I know. Doc can comment on that.
 
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The_Doc_Man

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Actually, though this is coming from a hazy part of my old brain, that "controlled burn" most closely mimics natural brush fires (started by lightning) for which a lot of the burned brush gets charred down to ash. Which simply means that denatured proteins and minerals from the wood ash leach faster into the soil during storms and more quickly fertilize the ground for the next round of natural growth. The "Tree Huggers" don't seem to understand simple chemistry as it relates to natural fertilization cycles. Perhaps we should get Sir Elton to sing "The Circle of Life" for them while the brush burns?

@Steve R. - we don't appear to be SO far apart then. Our society has become so litigious as to necessitate tort reform in many states just so you can afford car insurance (for one example). @Jon already has a thread on this subject so I'm sure he'll have a comment or two on this tangential approach to his current hot button.
 

Steve R.

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Tucker is a bit more extreme than I would be. Nevertheless the significant takeaway, in regards to California, is that PG&E is in a lose/lose situation where government is creating a "third world" environment.
 

Pat Hartman

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I went to a Trump boat parade today. It was a gorgeous day but very windy with whitecaps on the sound so instead of going all the way to New Haven, people just turned around at the mouth of the Housatanic and circled for a while. There were about 150 boats from dingy's to cabin cruisers and even a few surfmobiles. My daughter's group came back and joined me at the restaurant. Anyway, I had lunch with some Trump fans because of the winds and one of them proposed an interesting theory about the fires out west. There have been suggestions that several were caused by arson. My daughter's friend's contention is that they can't sell their houses and want the insurance money.
 

The_Doc_Man

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If true, very sad. But it makes sense to me that such a thing might happen.

The REAL question is: How many folks bail out of California permanently after the fire crisis?
 

Isaac

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If true, very sad. But it makes sense to me that such a thing might happen.

The REAL question is: How many folks bail out of California permanently after the fire crisis?
It has always amazed me how reluctant some people are to simply move to a place that works better. While America statistically is still, compared some many parts of the world, incredibly "mobile", and I myself have never hesitated to move to where financially makes sense, it absolutely amazes and confounds me how often people are so attached to a place that they stay there even in the face of insanely inhospitable conditions.

One of my little pet issues is the type of scenario where you have someone living in San Francisco or New York city complaining that they can't seem to rise up to the middle class or a decent wage/living cost situation. I'm thinking...then GET OUT! Nobody is forcing you to live in Manhattan when you could live in the 75% of the US that's very affordable.. But the mindset of some is, "I guess I just need to keep trying to make it where I am", rather than seriously considering a move.
 

The_Doc_Man

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For a while I was trapped in New Orleans when my mother became ill and my father died. I stopped my life for about five years to take care of Mom, who was descending into the death spiral that is Alzheimer's Disease. She had no other children, her closest siblings were two states away. However, once she passed and I had the estate settled in the courts, I was free to move. Except that in answering a blind ad, I found a job that turned into a second career as a Navy contractor. But there was a time when I seriously DID consider leaving New Orleans.

Of course, one never knows how alternate choices would have worked out - but I would not have met my dear wife Linda or had grandkids through her kids if I had moved elsewhere.
 

Isaac

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Of course, there are all kinds of exceptions to my "If it isn't working, leave" mantra - it's certainly not an absolute thing.
Glad it worked out for you!

My history:
- Grew up in rural Wisconsin, and I mean really rural. Left when I was 16
- Moved to Tulsa OK to go to college, spent about 8 years there, got married w/ kids
- Moved to San Diego to go to law school (found out the "law school life", even with 60% scholarship, with no jobs, and 2 small kids, in an expensive city, not the best idea I ever had. Exit strategy employed about halfway through!)
- Moved to Phoenix, as it seemed cheap and I could easily drive a truck there.
- Moved away twice, throughout the years, to try other things, partly for family reasons: Kansas City MO & DFW TX. Always ended up moving back.

Now have about 14 combined years here, probably here for life. Thankful I landed in an area that's affordable, conservative (maybe still?), and has no natural disasters.
 

AccessBlaster

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- Moved to San Diego to go to law school (found out the "law school life", even with 60% scholarship, with no jobs, and 2 small kids, in an expensive city, not the best idea I ever had. Exit strategy employed about halfway through!)
So your the one! :ROFLMAO:
 

Isaac

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So your the one! :ROFLMAO:
Gets funnier than that. Never having been west before, and being on a limited budget, I myself bought a plane ticket from Tulsa to SD to spend a weekend looking for apartments. We didn't use cell phones yet (a bit behind everyone else), and I didn't have a laptop, so I sat in a hotel looking at newspaper clippings. I eventually settled down in pretty much the best one I found--a tiny 2 bdrm with 1 parking space and a serious ants problem. For some reason it didn't occur to me to research the "vibe" of different neighborhoods, I was just struck with it seemed very chill & peaceful, and although inland suburbs were cheaper, I didn't like the idea of going from 75 degrees to 105 for the sake of 15 miles east.

It took us a few weeks of being there until it dawned on us we hadn't seen almost any other heterosexual couples, nor children. We had ended up in University Heights.
Hey, it was peaceful! We just felt every so slightly out of place.
 

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