‘Situational ethics’ come into play in both public and private sector issues
“Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.”
– Barry Black, U.S. Senate chaplain
Those words by the spiritual voice of the United States Senate were part of his opening prayer a few months ago as lawmakers argued over the potential shutdown of the federal government. The sentiment, however, can be applied more universally.
Take, for instance, industry arguments voiced by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, Mesa and Garfield County commissioners and supporters predicting all sorts of horrors if the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission would, as it ultimately did, adopt statewide standards for emissions from drilling and production facilities.
One size doesn’t fit all for these sorts of complex issues, the argument went. Each area is different and should be subject to rules tailored to take into account local conditions.
A reasonable stance, one might think.
But then there’s the same association and its allies using the courts to challenge local efforts to regulate hydraulic fracturing. All of a sudden statewide rules are most desirable and lawsuits, except when used by those damned environmentalists, are necessary. Local rules, presumably taking into account different conditions and individual situations as did the newly-enacted air quality rules, would bring chaos to the regulatory scheme and the industry.
My educated guess, based upon a few laps around city, county and state government tracks, is that industry challenges to locally imposed bans will prevail given current Colorado law. I’m very much on the fence about whether local governments ought to have additional powers to regulate exploration and production beyond those now available.
But I’m also certain that we’ll again be awash in the pros and cons about fracking, at least through November. There are multiple citizen initiatives proposed to allow the same sort of local considerations the industry associations and their allies thought should be applied to that other similarly complex issue, air quality.
Plenty of time for additional heated discussion grounded in, to be a little more charitable, “situational ethics.”
There’s also more than a little hypocrisy evident around another favorite issue of mine, one certain to arouse comment from my fellow former Safeway employee, John Wilkenson; my former high-school classmate, Joe Luff; and the author of a recent letter to the editor, Phyllis Hunsinger.
“The government does not produce anything to grow the economy,” she wrote. “Re-circulating tax dollars will not produce economic growth in our community.”
That ought to be news to John, who cut meat while I stocked produce sold to government employees and others back when there was a grocery store instead of a library at 5th and Grand. And also to Joe, whose salary was presumably at least partially dependent on the dollars spent by local, state and federal government workers when he helped manage City Market.
Imagine how the local economy would be struggling if the nearly 6,000 well-paying jobs provided by six of the eight largest employers in Mesa County vanished. District 51, Mesa County, the state of Colorado, the VA Medical Center, the city of Grand Junction and Colorado Mesa University provide more local jobs than the rest of the top 25 employers listed in the 2014 Business Update provided recently by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.
That doesn’t include employment with other agencies reliant on government dollars, such as First Transit and SM Stoller Corp., or the jobs provided from government-funded projects by other top 25 employers such United Companies or agencies such as STRIVE. Nor does it include those providing Medicare- and Medicaid-funded care at St. Mary’s, Community Hospital, Family Health West and other providers.
Certainly we ought to celebrate all private-sector employment, especially in the small businesses that provide the bulk of local jobs. But it’s disingenuous to dismiss the economic impact of some of our largest employers just because they don’t fit our personal and political philosophies.
When someone signs the back of his or her paycheck and spends money in our local economy, does it really pay to demean those who sign the front side of a major chunk of those checks?