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Griffin touts Exxon to oiled constituency 

Put yourself in the shoes of Rev. Pat Robertson or one of the other clerics who insist that disasters, whether natural or manmade, are God's way of showing His wrath over the stupid things people are doing.

What is God trying to say with the rupture of the tar-sands pipeline that poisoned a neighborhood at Mayflower, in the heart of Congressman Tim Griffin's district? Could He have been registering His displeasure with Griffin's relentless championing of the big tar-sands pipeline that will run from Alberta to the refineries on the Texas coast and with Griffin's efforts to roll back the government's protections for His planet?

Personally, I never believed that God went out of his way to cudgel people with whom he was displeased by flying airliners into the World Trade Center or by sending plagues, droughts, floods or tornados their way. (What could He possibly have against Rick Perry and the West Texans suffering through an awful three-year drought? Governor Perry does believe God acts that way and asks Texans to pray for Him to stop.)

But people who claim to have better celestial rapport than I, believe as Perry does, and that includes 38 percent of all Americans (and a considerably higher percentage in the South), according to a poll last year.

You have to give the theory more credence with the Exxon Mobil spill at Mayflower because of the unusual coincidences. When Pat Robertson and Rev. Jerry Falwell said God was responsible for the 9/11 attacks because he was mad at America for tolerating gays, abortions and the American Civil Liberties Union, you had to wonder why then He targeted the Pentagon, airliners filled with proper people, and the seat of capitalism, the World Trade Center.

But, if you are inclined that way at all, Mayflower almost seems too much of a coincidence to dispel the theory that it was God's hand. Yes, Republicans everywhere had jumped on the Keystone XL pipeline as a political issue to beat up the president and Democrats, but Tim Griffin took it on as his personal cause, running for re-election almost on that alone, issuing statement after statement and resurrecting it again recently as the time approached for the president to make a decision.

People who follow politics closely knew what Griffin was up to. The biggest bankrollers of both Griffin's campaigns were petrochemical industries ($214,000), including the billionaire Koch brothers, followed by Americans for Prosperity, the ultraconservative outfit founded by the Koch brothers ($156,183 for Griffin in 2010 alone). The oil industry is the big exponent of the pipeline, which will take the nastiest, most toxic hydrocarbons in the world from Alberta, Canada, across Western states down to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. The word was that the oil would go to Koch Industries' Flint Hill refineries on the Texas shipping channels. (Koch insists that it has no direct interest in the pipeline, but it sent a form to Canada's National Energy Board that it had "a direct and substantial interest" in application for the Canadian section of the pipeline.)

Griffin pooh-poohed the concerns of Nebraska Republicans that a breach in the giant pipe when it crossed the Ogallala aquifer would corrupt the water source that allows people to live in arid Nebraska, and others that toxic emissions from exploring and refining the dirtiest tar in the world would speed climate change. Pipelines are perfectly safe, Griffin said. (For a list of some 250 pipeline accidents since 2000, see this website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pipeline_accidents_in_the_United_States.) In 2000, incidentally, Koch pipelines and refineries paid the largest civil fine ($30 million) ever imposed on a company under federal environmental law for the illegal discharge of crude and other petroleum products in 300 spills.

So the Pegasus pipeline, which transports the toxic heavy crude for Exxon Mobil to the Texas coast, ruptures right in the middle of Griffin's district, and in his stronghold. Not only that, it is the little district of state Sen. Jason Rapert, the Arkansas legislature's chief champion of the exploration companies and the author of a bill to give pipeline companies like Exxon the authority to condemn the land of private landowners for their own use.

But typical of God's restraint, He didn't cause the pipeline to rupture three or four miles to the south, where it crosses miles of the wilderness watershed of Lake Maumelle, the drinking-water source for 400,000 people, which would have been a true cataclysm, but in a little neighborhood of suburban Mayflower, where it would be spotted almost instantly and the flow halted after 20,000 or so gallons had escaped.

As it was, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette gave Griffin space on its op-ed page to extol the work of Exxon and others in cleaning up the site and assuring people that he was going to see that Exxon stayed on the job until people were satisfied. Griffin won't push Exxon too hard or else its PAC won't renew its campaign gift to him. He denounced people for using the oil spill to score political points and said he was staying away from politics. Then he attacked everyone who was alarmed by the spill and those who objected to the Keystone pipeline's crossing sensitive areas on the Western plains as people who do not want Americans to have affordable energy or to prosper.

Tim Griffin play politics? He has never done anything else.

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