Tuesday, May 12, 2015

You haven't heard the last of the riparians on fracking

Many years ago, I read a very interesting book called Takings: Private Property and the Power of Eminent Domain, by Richard A. Epstein. It is a fascinating treatise on how takings are treated within US courts. I read it back then because I was fascinated by the possibility that programs like the Social Security program might be deemed unconstitutional. Yes, I admit it. I was once a libertarian, too.

In sum, the book provides a very interesting analysis of the redistribution of wealth by governments. But that is not the reason I bring that book to your attention here.

Takings was the book that introduced me to the term, "riparian". Riparian is defined as follows:
adjective LAW
of, relating to, or situated on the banks of a river.
"all the riparian states must sign an agreement"

of or relating to wetlands adjacent to rivers and streams.

Riparian rights relate to those rights downstream. Today, I would like to talk about the schism between libertarians (Epstein also happens to be a libertarian), who talk so fondly of small government, and the rights of everyone else. Epstein couches the scene nicely in his book when discussing pollution along a river in his book. He says that we don't really need regulations for managing pollution. We just need access to the courts. See, if a company pollutes a river, everyone downstream has the right to sue for damages. After a few disagreeable lawsuits, the defendant will tire of all that noise and clean up in a hurry, right?

I would think that Erin Brockovich has a different opinion on the matter. Besides, if you want to sue, you need access to the courts and it helps to have a few judges, lawmakers and an entire administration on your side. You know, like the able men and women in the fracking industry. Yes, those men and women have no problem injecting water into the ground with a secret and proprietary broth of chemicals in order to force oil and gas out of the ground. Once they get their oil, they take the waste water and pump it back into the ground, the aquifer, the source of most of our water for farming, drinking and bathing.

Libertarians would say, "Hey, it's cool. Eventually someone will sue and that problem will be solved." The rest of us will have to deal with green, black or grey water. We'll buy water softeners and reverse osmosis filters. We'll have to contend with a government bought and paid for by the oil industry.

So where are the riparians among us? Do riparian rights offer any guidance in the courts? Sure, if your name is not Koch, you're not financed by someone named Koch, and you can get your water from some other source.

Did you know that the Koch brothers claim they are libertarians? I didn't know that until recently, when I started looking into their history. They have been promoting libertarianism since the early 80s and probably before that. But they only promote it when it suits them.

How do we know? Because when people try to fight fracking projects, they are treated to lawsuits, harassment and polluted water, that's how. A true libertarian would allow others to air their grievances and get damages for the fouling of the water, the land and the air. They would allow people to sue for damages relating to health care costs resulting from the pollution. They would allow people to sue for restoration of the land.

Oh, God. You should see what the land looks like when they're done with it. Unlivable, complete and total devastation. No mans land. Not because anyone would want it, but because when they're done with it, no one wants it. What fracking leaves behind looks like a warzone.

The Koch brothers would like to paint themselves as true freedom fighting libertarians. They want to raise $900 million for the next presidential election to ensure their notions of freedom and liberty stay fresh and gain traction. But given their track record on pollution and land use, the only freedom they want is for them to extract profit from the land at everyone else's expense. Who cleans up when they're done?

The bacteria (all the other animals are gone). The rain. The wind. The taxpayer. Give it an eon. Maybe two. Then come back to paradise.

Or you can support and vote for Bernie Sanders. Why? He seems like the only candidate willing to apply full cost accounting to fracking.
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