Diary

Court Halts Oil Development on Alaska OCS

Even without the polar bear or some other marine mammal making the endangered species list, exploration and development off Alaska’s Arctic Coast has been halted by the DC Circuit’s decision in a lawsuit by environmental groups and Alaska Native villages.  These are the leases that were let last year for several billions of dollars and with much hoopla.  The Court held that the Bush Administration didn’t do an adequate EIS.  Of course, an adequate EIS is whatever the brilliant scientists in black robes say it is.  The Anchorage Daily News story is here: http://www.adn.com/money/industries/oil/story/762894.html  You may note our new Boy Senator is mush-mouthing about working with the Administration.  Aren’t you all glad that evil old Sen. Stevens is gone?

Once again, the Greenie/Lefty game with the courts works out for them.  Rather than revise the EIS or appeal to the USSC, the BHO Administration will just tut-tut about the incompetence of the Bush Administration and how ill-considered and hasty it all was and those leases will never be heard of again.  The game the Greenies/Lefties play is to tie any development, or anything else they don’t like, up in court until at least the next election.  The moral of the story is that a pro-development administration or any administration that wants to do something that the Left will oppose, MUST start the project, program, or initiative immediately upon taking office.  It is hard to get a dispute through both the state courts and the federal courts even in a four year term.  If the appeals go into the election season, they just become trade bait in the election and you can be sure that if a Democrat wins, the appeals will either be tanked or dropped.

Alaska Natives, in this case the Inupiat Eskimo village of Pt. Hope, are usually supportive of development so long as the price to them is right.  Per the Statehood Act, Alaska is entitled to 90% of the revenue from OCS development, but getting that would require taking it from the cold, dead hands of the US Government.  First the State and the US would have to come to some agreement on the State share, then the State would have to come up with a deal with the village or with the borough (Pt. Hope is in the North Slope Borough, I think, which is quite wealth off taxes and royalties from development at Prudoe Bay, but that is on State land.)  The Pt. Hope village is one of the more activist villages and has adamantly insisted on having the ability to harvest Bowhead Whales.  Only Natives can take any marine mammal; whites go to jail for even disturbing them or getting too close to them.  The village claim is that the development will damage the bowhead.  Having the village join in is just gravy for the Greenies plus it gives the State another hurtle by forcing us to placate them.  It is very much an issue for the State as well, since there is no infrastructure out there to support development and no overland access.  Like the early days at Prudhoe Bay, everything will have to come in by summer barge or by air at enormouse expense; it’s a little over an hour by B737 from Anchorage to Kotzebue, the nearest town of any size with regular, direct jet service.  Alaska will have to bear the infrastructure and social welfare costs of development with an uncertain revenue future.

In any event, I’m sure we’ll find that every EIS done during the Bush Administration was somehow inadequate.  That means no Alaska oil development in federal and probably State waters so long as the Communist in Chief is in power.  While we still have a chance at the USSC, it might be well if we or another oil state started a development on state lands or in state waters and asserted that the oil from that development would be used only within the state.  That might enable another whack at the “effecting commerce” interpretation in the case about wheat for personal use back in the New Deal days.  I can’t remember the cite, but the gist was that if the farmer grew his own wheat solely for personal consumption, his growing the wheat effected interstate commerce since it prevented him from buying wheat that he would otherwise buy or allow the sale of other wheat in interstate commerce.  I don’t know how much hope there is to modify that precedent, but there is more now than there will be after BHO gets some justices that see things his way.