Wednesday, August 6, 2008

T. Boone Pickens and Power Politics-Texas Style

Tokyo Tom has a lot of detail in "Pickens buys eminent domain powers and wind power transmission rights for his personal 8-acre "water district"':

I previously reported on T. Boone Pickens' plan to suck down half of the water from that part of the Ogallala aquifer that underlies the Texas Panhandle, sell it to Dallas and put the money in his pocket - other users of the aquifer be damned. Pickens' has subsequently launched a publicity blitz to get the federal government to subsidize his wind farm power scheme.

It's now becoming clear how Pickens' water plan and wind plan are tied together, greased by corrupt Republican legislators in Texas and the apparent willingness of environmentalist leaders - anxious for "clean" energy, to turn a blind eye to Pickens' water plan.

First, let me note that Pickens and the Republican-dominated Texas legislature have just put on a marvelous display of how government, in Texas at least, is by the rich and for the rich, who are allowed to ride roughshod over the "property rights" of others.

Last year the Texas legislature, greased by $1.2 million in campaign contributions by Pickens over the previous election cycle, modified its laws who can create a "fresh water supply district" that has powers of eminent domain - powers to forcibly take land from others - and authorized such water districts to use their rights of way to carry power transmission lines. Such water districts are authorized to raise cheap money by issuing tax-exempt bonds. By securing rule changes in his favor, a Pickens-controlled district covering eight acres in the Panhandle acquired the power to condemn private land for a pipeline and power transmission lines all the way to Dallas. In Texas, money talks and money rules - and "property rights" means nothing more than the right to collect reasonable value in compensation for what the rich want to take from you. According to one report,

Going into the 2006 election that preceded this legislative fix, Pickens personally contributed $1.2 million to state candidates and political committees. Recipients of his largesse included each of the 16 senators who faced election in 2006 and one third of the 150-member House. Republicans received 94 percent of all the money that Pickens doled out to state candidates.

Promptly upon the changes in law, Pickens deeded eight acres in Roberts County to five of his employees - two of them the only residents/locally-registered voters within the parcel - to form a water district, which was then approved by Roberts County last November. Before the change in law, as reported by Business Week, "a district's five elected supervisors needed to be registered voters living within the boundaries of the district. Now, they only had to own land in the district; they could live and vote wherever.">>>MUCH MORE