If there is one thing that Americans on both sides of the political aisle can agree on in today’s polarized political climate, it is that the moneyed elite have managed to gain an unacceptable amount of influence in politics. Sadly, the collective opinion of 80% of the nation doesn’t appear to matter on this issue, and the wealthy elite continue to entangle themselves increasingly with consolidating power.
On Wednesday we saw another example of this, with the appointment of Kelcy Warren—the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners—to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. The vote to approve Warren wasn’t close, with 22 members of the Texas Senate voting in favor of his appointment and only 9 voting against.
Warren’s seat on the Parks and Wildlife Commission didn’t come cheaply; since 2010, his company has donated $899,803 to Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas. This isn’t to say that his appointment was the only thing bought with this money—Energy Transfer Partners does business in Texas and that type of money buys a lot of favors—but it certainly didn’t hurt his chances of being nominated for this position.
Beyond his “donations” to Greg Abbott, there is simply no reason why he would be appointed to this position. His company, Energy Transfer Partners, is the controversial pipeline company that built the Dakota Access Pipeline though native lands and vulnerable aquifers, against the wishes of those living there and at grave threat to the environment.
The fight over DAPL was an example of brutal and one-sided violence to protect those with money. Water protectors were beaten, arrested, maced, pepper sprayed, and shot with water cannons in freezing weather by the police protecting the pipeline. Similarly, private oil security officers set attack dogs on peaceful protesters and attempted to infiltrate their camp while carrying weapons.
Warren’s only response to the terrible violence being committed against protesters was to offer to pay the costs to police incurred while they were repressing the protesters. In effect, his offer would have turned the police into Pinkerton-styled mercenaries who defend their employer from protesters with violence exercised with the force of law behind them.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission exists to safeguard the water and wildlife resources of the state and to manage public lands. They have authority over numerous parks and bodies of water and are responsible for ensuring that these resources are protected for the public use. Given the fact that Warren is somebody who has amassed a fortune through a business that poses an existential threat to these exact types of natural resources, one wonders what his interest is in this position.
After all, he clearly isn’t an environmentalist, conservationist, or even all that concerned with ensuring that water resources are kept free of toxic runoff. Sadly, the reasons why Warren is interested in this position aren’t that hard to figure out, and don’t bode well for the people of Texas.
Put simply, if your business produces a grave risk of polluting natural resources, you have a vested interest in ensuring that you have influence over the bodies that are tasked with protecting the environment. Additionally, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission produces numerous educational programs on the environment and having influence over these programs could allow him to slant them in favor of his industry. In other terms, if you’re a professional thief, infiltrating the police force isn’t a bad way to prevent yourself from getting arrested.
Concerned Americans need to keep watch over the future actions of Kelcy Warren to see how he is using this new position to affect policy. While the inner workings of this type of agency are arcane and boring, ignoring their choices can result in truly terrible consequences.
Edited by Lydia McMullen-Laird