"It's only fair. That's the principle I'll be fighting for during the next phase of this process." President Obama, August 2, 2011
What if you paid $38,000 to lease a house and were then told you cannot move in until some studies are done to determine if it is safe, but you do not get your money back? Years go by while the landlord is holding your money. That's not fair!
But this is exactly what the Obama administration has been doing to the oil and gas industry since May of 2010. The same Obama who is crisscrossing the country touting "fair."
On Friday, a US District Judge, appointed by Obama, decided that the administration wasn't playing fair.
In October 2010, the Western Energy Alliance (WEA), representing more than 400 independent natural gas and oil producers in the western states, filed a lawsuit against the federal government to force action on oil and gas leases that companies had already paid for. The leases had been purchased at Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lease sales. But because of environmental protests and uncertainty over endangered species, the BLM has a backlog of leases needing additional examination.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 encouraged domestic energy development by allowing wells drilled from a site that had been used within the past five years, and already had a full environmental analysis, to proceed without repeating the expensive, time consuming, and redundant studies. Additionally, in areas with extensive energy development—and therefore environmental impacts have been fully evaluated—permits could be expedited. Extraction and jobs could happen more quickly—helping America's debt.
In May/June 2010, in response to an environmentalist lawsuit, the BLM/Forest Service (FS) adopted new rules for interpreting the Energy Policy Act. The rules were aimed at slowing down development by increasing environmental oversight of drilling on federal lands.
The WEA lawsuit focused specifically on 118 leases for which companies had paid $4.5 million—an average of $38,000 per lease—though hundreds of leases and more than $100 million were impacted by Friday's decision.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal ruled that the BLM and FS had failed to follow the correct procedures when they issued a memorandum and letter, respectively, changing the application of the 2005 Energy Policy Act. The Obama administration sought to introduce a screening process that would have increased environmental oversight. Turning down the administration's argument that the memorandum/letter were "policy statements," Judge Freudenthal said: "They are rules which bind the agency and impose or affect individual rights and duties"—as such, notifying the public and engaging in proper rule-making are required. She threw out the 2010 rewrite of Section 390 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and reinstated expedited oil and gas drilling.
"The judge's ruling," said Kathleen Sgamma, director of Government and Public Affairs for WEA, "is a victory for responsible American energy development, and holds the promise of new jobs and economic growth."
The judge's ruling was the second strike against the Obama administration in as many days. Just the day before, a three-judge panel—made up of one Bush appointee and two Clinton appointees—struck down Obamacare, ruling that Congress does not have the power to require all Americans to buy insurance.
Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge, Martin Feldman ruled that the Obama administration was acting in contempt, stating that regulators acted with "determined disregard," by lifting the offshore ban and then reinstituting a series of policy changes that restricted offshore drilling.
Just last month, Louisiana Senator David Vitter (R) begged the administration to allow "our energy industry to get back to work."
In an economic crisis, with a president who has pivoted to jobs numerous times in the last year, his policies have turned even those within his own party against him. At long last the job destroying policies of the Obama administration and his czars is seen for what they are—and they are not "fair."
OK, Mr. President. Let's be fair. Let the tenants move into the house they've leased.
Marita Noon is the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens' Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations' combined efforts serve as America's voice for energy. Marita's twentieth book, Energy Freedom, will be released in October.