Let's call it the El Paso Payoff. Last week I found out the El Paso Corporation paid $20 million to the Western Wateshed Project and the Oregon Natural Desert Association. In return, both of these environmental groups agreed to drop all opposition to El Paso's plan for running a natural gas pipeline from Wyoming to Oregon. I immediately called the company to get their side of the story. They called me back later that day and I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to visit with a Mr. Robert Wheatley, El Paso's media relations guy.
I had characterized this whole situation as nothing more than a bribe given to the last big opponents of their pipeline. After all, $20 million made a problem go away. While Mr. Wheatley certainly disagreed with my evaluation, his explanation of what happened did little to change my mind.
It's admirable that El Paso wanted to do what they could to lessen the impact to the environment that their pipeline will create, however, dealing with a radical environmental group that has the stated goal of getting ranchers off federal land was about the worst way to go about it. I asked Mr Wheatley why they didn't give it to a group that wasn't anti-ranching or give some money to a ag group as well as the WWP. He didn't have an answer but if he was honest the real answer is that the squeaky wheel got the grease.
So ranching families are now facing an already wealthy environmental group, with a stated goal of getting ranchers off the land, that's just recieved a large cash infusion.
This part of the ag community will now need your help and support even more. After my visit with El Paso I was apparent that they were feeling some heat from this deal. It's important that the entire ag community stand together on this issue and let El Paso know that this isn't acceptable. Please leave a comment on the El Paso Facebook page or phone them with your thoughts. It's a quick and simple thing you can do to be an advocate for agriculture.