Thursday, June 22, 2006

Teddy's Windmills

For crying out loud in a bucket, as my mother was wont to exclaim, surely there is no connection between an offshore windmill farm and that federal amendment effort to ban same-sex marriage? Damned right there is! The link is at once scary, complex and amusing.

At a time when the sitting President is actively grabbing power and undermining our separation of powers on which our government relies, each of these issues strikes at states' rights from different angles. What for decades we ascribed to long-serving, archly conservative Southern governors and legislators is suddenly a D.C. and Massachusetts concern.

Yesterday, the leaders of both federal houses compromised on the Nantucket Sound wind farm. The essential factor is that our U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy dropped his demand that our Governor Williard Mitt Romney have veto power over the project. Instead, the head of the U.S. Coast Guard has approval rights, and rights based on navigational safety concerns. The sense is that the wind farm is as good as built.

As the Boston Herald version notes, it was two leaders of the Senate Energy Committee who forced the compromise. They "threatened to oppose final passage of the funding bill unless roadblocks to the 400 megawatt wind project were removed. " Chairman of the committee, New Mexico Republican Pete Dominici, said of the agreement, "The governor veto is gone and the Coast Guard is only allowed to address navigational safety concerns."

This is a huge concession for a coastal state. As the Washington Post quotes a gleeful industry leader. "This is a seismic shift in a 25-year-old policy that . . . was reinstated every year (since 1981) with little or no debate," said Jack Gerard, president of the American Chemistry Council.

The complex irony cannot be overstated. A leftwing Democratic Senator wanted to keep the power in his state that he aligned with the very silly, allegedly conservative Republican Governor against the project. The concept circled the vortex of states' rights. Even though the wind farm would be four or five miles offshore -- in federal, not commonwealth waters, Kennedy wanted the traditional approval power to live in Boston, not Washington.

He initially very much opposed the Cape Wind project, all the while claiming incredibly that it was not a NIMBY issue. Now, according to a recap in the Boston Globe, he has set the tone for all the other backpedalers including himself. "We've always been concerned about issues of safety," he now claims. "The Cape Wind project has been moving forward irresponsibly, before any safety rules for such large off-shore developments have been established."

Of course, it's true that the Cape Wind folk did get in before there were a lot of new regulations. That was smart and pioneering in the American tradition. Wanting to punish them after the fact and try to apply procedures and rules instituted retroactively is both stupid and un-American, but hey, Kennedy tried.

When it became plain that other U.S. legislators in both houses didn't buy the Romney-veto thing, Kennedy suddenly got the safety religion and did what experienced Senators do best, compromise. The result isn't a direct gift to George Bush the Lesser, but it does transfer federal power for an offshore project away from the affected, abutting state.

As another Post article puts it, "It considerably strengthens the role of the Coast Guard," said R.S. Rep. William Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat and former opponent of the project. He added that he expect Congressional action on it as part of the Coast Guard bill before the July Fourth recess.

Meanwhile, the recent failure of the anti-same-sex-marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution represents the opposite side of states' rights. Most observers judged that the amendment has no chance of passing and is just another scare tactic to get the most simple-minded self-identified-conservative voters to the polls in November.

However, its dark side is that Bush would propose legislation that would for the first time ever, move the purely per-state power to regulate marriage within its borders. This anti-states' rights ploy riled many Republican legislators, even those who don't fight Bush's policies of spying on citizens.

There can be no compromise on the amendment and states' rights. In itself, it would permanently set the precedent of the powers states reserve. This was the biggest debate as we initially formed this nation and defined the Constitution. The kindest thing you can say about this Bush effort, it that it is overreaching.

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2 comments:

Bugsy said...

My sister always tells me to be careful what you ask for.

You asked for the Feds to take our state rights and open the door for both wind and oil and gas development off our shores.

Now, the Feds will take your right to marry and recognize those marriages across boarders.

If the progressive left can't stand with the middle and stands instead with the far-right neo-cons this will happen time and time again.

By weaking the middle, you erode the rights and dignities of all of us.

Mass Marrier said...

That's odd and wrong. I describe the pattern, not support the trend.

I am opposed both the George's power grabs and Congress' trying to take power away from the states and reserve them to the feds. Both terribly imbalance our separation of powers.

You and Mitt may well be in lockstep on Cape Wind. That is your position and his.

Just because I don't agree, don't ascribe any love for a tsar-like President to me. Bush is way off base on this.

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