March 15, 2013

Has Obama found some environmentalist gonads?

I definitely want to see the fine print, but if he takes a step 1/10th as strong as, say, NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act, has been so far, this proposed executive order would be huge.

Here's how such an order would take off on NEPA's current regulations:
While some U.S. agencies already take climate change into account when assessing projects, the new guidelines would apply across-the-board to all federal reviews. Industry lobbyists say they worry that projects could be tied up in lawsuits or administrative delays. 

For example, Ambre Energy Ltd. is seeking a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to build a coal-export facility at the Port of Morrow in Oregon. Under existing rules, officials weighing approval would consider whether ships in the port would foul the water or generate air pollution locally. The Environmental Protection Agency and activist groups say that review should be broadened to account for the greenhouse gases emitted when exported coal is burned in power plants in Asia. 
But, here's where the fine print already comes in.
 Lawyers and lobbyists are now waiting for the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality to issue the long bottled-up standards for how agencies should address climate change under the National Environmental Policy Act, signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970.
And, that's why I think that's there will be more horsemeat than beef in this burger.

I bring to mind, say, the Consumer Finance Protection Agency. Still crafting legal standards. Ditto for other post-Great Recession Obama federal agencies on regulating banksters.

And, given the history of the Department of Interior under Obama, I'm not holding my breath too much.

That said, as the story notes, any executive order expansion of NEPA would invite citizen lawsuits just like NEPA's other protections. However, if a subsequent Republican president revokes that executive order, what happens?

Bloomberg's story says any court cases already decided would set precedent. But, the conservative activists on SCOTUS care little for precedent.

And, anti-Keystoners who, in their ongoing fight, think this would give them more ammunition? I doubt it.

And, Obama's plan to finance energy security could backfire; the funding depends on money from federal oil and gas drilling leases, and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski has already explicitly tied it to ANWR being opened for drilling.

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