Despite his speechmaking touting an “all of the above” energy strategy, President Obama’s reelection could depend his willingness to stand in the way of developing America’s resources.
Back in November, at the time of the original Keystone XL pipeline decision, environmental groups threatened to pull their backing for Obama if he approved the pipeline. Michael Brune, executive director of America’s largest environmental group, the Sierra Club, is on record as saying that the President’s decision on Keystone would have “a very big impact” on how they funnel their resources—with the obvious implication being that they would not support the President if he didn’t do their bidding.
Other environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Environmental Defense Fund took a different tack but with the same goal. A press release from the Rainforest Action Network promised the President that if he denied Keystone, he would see a “surge of enthusiasm from the green base that supported you so strongly in the last election.”
Environmental groups clearly understand they have the ability to influence the President’s decisions based on their claims to support—or not support—his bid for a second term. So far, they must be pleased with his administration’s efforts. On Wednesday, April 18, leading environmental groups came out with their official endorsement of President Obama—“the earliest” the groups “have ever endorsed in a presidential election cycle.” According to The Hill, “The groups are planning a mix of advertising and on-the-ground work on Obama’s behalf.” However, Glenn Hurowitz, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, thinks the groups should have waited longer before endorsing the President. He believes the early endorsement removes the “greens’ leverage.”
Most pundits agree that the 2012 presidential election will be a hard fought, close race. In order to win, President Obama needs the four million votes from “greens” the groups represent—and they do not want increased domestic resource extraction. According to BusinessWeek, funding from environmental groups is currently less than 50% of what it was through the same period in the 2008 campaign—one of the reasons cited: “renewing offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Though receiving little press, the Obama administration is working hard to convince the “greens” that he is one of them.
The NRDC (one of the groups promising support if Obama does the right thing) has launched a major fundraising effort—aided by the actor Robert Redford, to block a proposed mine that would provide America with access to one of the largest known deposits of copper in the world. Copper is essential for electric transmission and America’s industrial future—and highly sought after by developing economies such as China. The land—already designated for mineral exploration and development—also contains gold, silver and molybdenum. Despite the fact that the Native Alaskans living near the proposed Pebble Mine site want the infrastructure and jobs the mine would provide, rich sport-fishermen and out of state environmental groups (NRDC is based in New York City) are claiming to “pressure the Obama administration to reject any permits that could allow Pebble Mine to move forward. And if necessary, we will challenge this disastrous project in federal court.” The fund raising letter states: “Only NRDC combines grassroots power with the legal clout of more than 400 attorneys.”
To date, there is no detailed plan or application submitted for a mine. The companies involved have already invested more than $400 million in research, studies, and field work but have not yet applied for federal approval. Pebble Limited Partnership’s CEO John Shively said, “I think in terms of the environmental side, I am relatively convinced that the technology is there for us to do what we need to do. Combining the technology with the economics, we have not gotten that far, and we have not finished designing.”
There are more than 65 different types of state and federal permits, certifications, and reviews that must take place before the Pebble project can move forward. Yet, the EPA is entertaining a “preemptive veto petition” which would prevent “due process,” deprive America of much needed resources and Alaskans of the economic security the project could bring to the remote region.
Test drilling for core samples at the mine site have been found to be nontoxic and up to municipal standards. The actual location of the mineral resource is farther away from the waters of Bristol Bay than Los Angeles is from San Diego. The EPA is currently conducting a watershed assessment on the potential impact of a large development project on the region that could easily have the effect of blocking any and all future development proposal, including construction of a community airport. The EPA’s assessment is expected to be released in a matter of weeks.
The EPA study, that pales in comparison to a multiyear $120 million environmental baseline review conducted by Pebble, is being used as a precursor for the agency to skip the established environmental review process and preemptively deny a 404 C Clean Water Act permit before the Pebble project has even applied for a permit. EPA preemptive action would be a first of its kind and would constitute a massive and devastating expansion of the administration’s environmental power.
In an April 18 letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Senator Lisa Murkowski said, “I have encouraged all stakeholders to withhold judgment until 1) a detailed development plan is released for review and 2) all relevant analyses of that plan are completed. A preemptive veto, just like a preemptive approval, would be based purely upon speculation and conjecture. It would deprive relevant government agencies and all stakeholders of the specifics needed to take an informed position.” She concludes: “As the people of my state work to attract investment and create jobs, regulatory uncertainty is hampering those efforts and they need answers to questions about actions the EPA is considering.”
Opponents of the Pebble Mine project have asked, “Can science and engineering eliminate the risks posed by the Pebble Mine to Alaska’s economy? If the answer is yes, the backers should show how in a clear and unquestionable manner.” Yet, before the designs and plans are even complete, environmental groups like the NRDC have called for the project to be rejected—not based on science, but on emotional hyperbole and an anti-development agenda. Would the Pebble Partnership have invested more than $400 million if they didn’t think the technology was there to do what they need to do to meet the state and federal requirements?
The EPA’s preemptive actions in Alaska are just one example of the Obama administration’s attempts to prove to the greens that he is on their side. Another is the National Ocean Policy created through an executive order.
The order was signed nearly two years ago, but is only coming to light now because of the “potential this far-reaching policy has to hinder job creation because of the uncertainty it creates due to increased regulation.” Lawmakers, in an April 2 letter, are asking “to put the brakes on the Obama administration’s National Ocean Policy.” The letter, to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY), asks the committee to “specifically prohibit the use of funds for the implementation of the National Ocean Policy.”
On April 3, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) explained the new policy as “a complicated bureaucratic scheme which includes a 27-member national ocean council; an 18-member governance coordinating committee; 10 national policies; nine regional planning bodies—each involving as many as 27 federal agencies as well as states and tribes; nine national priority objectives; nine strategic action plans; seven national goals for coastal marine spatial planning; and 12 guiding principles for coastal marine spatial planning. The administration claims that this whole National Ocean Policy is nothing more than an attempt to coordinate federal agencies and make better permitting decisions. Forgive me if I am a little suspicious when the federal government—through an executive order—decides to create a new bureaucracy that will ‘help’ us plan where activities can or cannot take place in our waters and inland.”
In an April 17 article written by award-winning investigative journalist Audrey Hudson and published in Human Events, Hudson opens: “President Barack Obama has an ambitious plan for Washington bureaucrats to take command of the oceans—and with it control over much of the nation’s energy, fisheries, even recreation in a move described by lawmakers as the ultimate power grab to zone the seas.” She continues, “The ocean policy has already impacted oil and gas development in the Mid and South Atlantic, where more environmental analysis is now required to determine whether new studies must also be conducted to determine its safety, according to Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar.”
Not surprisingly, environmental groups support the policy. The Sierra Club hosts an “Activist Network” that includes the National Ocean Policy: “This project is to promote implementation of the National Ocean Policy through recruitment, education and engagement of Sierra Club Activists throughout the nation.” The NRDC “Switchboard” blog states: “The National Ocean Policy is a landmark policy that calls on us to evaluate all of the uses of the ocean—fishing, tourism, industry, military, energy—and identify how to manage these uses more sustainably.”
Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) comments: “If you look at the catalyst for the entire initiative, it comes from the playbook of environmental groups that think the ocean ought to be controlled by the federal government.” Senator David Vitter (R-LA) adds, “This has largely been completely under the radar. And that is exactly the way the administration and their environmental allies want to do it—announce the administrative fiat is complete and that we have this new way of life that nobody knew was coming.”
Pebble Mine and the National Ocean Policy are just two of myriad possible examples of how the environmental organizations and the Obama administration are working together to change America. When you think of the environmental movement, realize they have gone way beyond hugging trees. They now want to bring America to its knees.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as 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.