THE BLOG
06/17/2013 09:21 am ET Updated Aug 17, 2013

The Continuing Alaska Shut-out Scandal

The revelation last month that IRS officials had routinely targeted conservative organizations for excessive scrutiny is now a major political scandal, and rightly so. When you have federal agents asking citizens about the content of their prayers and investigating breakfast conversations hosted by an 83-year-old grandmother, it is a sign the federal government is far out of control.

The behavior is scandalous, no doubt, but it's unfortunately not uncommon.

Anyone who has been paying attention knows that bureaucrats throughout the government are routinely abusing their power to advance their ideology and that of the current administration. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the administration's aggressive obstruction of American energy.

How else to explain the Fish and Wildlife Service's threats last year to halt oil production in Texas to protect a "Sand Dune Lizard" which it claimed -- on very thin evidence -- might be endangered?

How else to explain the criminal charges the Justice Department filed in 2011 against seven North Dakota oil companies over the deaths of a tiny handful of birds found near oil pits? (A judge eventually threw out the case, noting that windmills kill thousands of birds a year but the administration had never filed similar charges against its green energy allies.)

And how else to explain the administration's continued shut-out of Alaskan energy development despite the enormous amount of land available, vast enough to accommodate both broad conservation and safe production?

It is clear that in a whole range of decisions, officials in the Interior Department, the EPA, the Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies are making choices equally ideological and equally opposed to taxpayer interest as those in the current IRS scandal.

Consider the depth of the ideological determination in the Alaska case. The federal government owns 69 percent of the state, a tract of land nearly one and one-half times the size of the state of Texas.

The government could literally set aside half of this land for conservation (so, a parcel 3/4 the size of Texas) while leaving the second half available for energy development that would contribute billions in royalties to the federal Treasury, create thousands of jobs, and drive down the cost of energy.

Yet bizarrely in the eyes of any reasonable observer, the federal government is taking sweeping actions to restrict access to resource-rich areas of Alaska onshore and offshore.

The Obama Administration is moving forward with plans that will limit oil and natural gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, and the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.

In December, the Obama Administration expanded exclusionary, "special areas" and Wild and Scenic Rivers designations in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, drastically limiting the area available for energy production in the petroleum reserve.

Certainly, the importance of land conservation is not lost on this Republican. While in Congress I helped save the Endangered Species Act and I understand the importance of biodiversity.

But the decisions in this case, like the Texas lizard and the North Dakota lawsuit, defy reason and smack of an ideological agenda.

Bureaucrats are, it appears, inventing environmental threats where none exist as an excuse to stop energy production. The tactic will undoubtedly create regulatory hurdles and delays for operators looking to deliver energy resources to American markets, much as the IRS's "extra scrutiny" debilitated conservative groups the administration didn't like.

As a sign of how out of control the bureaucracy remains, new conservation plans for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge could close the "10-02" area, which is actually Congressionally designated for oil and gas exploration.

Offshore, the regulatory regime remains just as perilous. The jumble of agencies charged with permitting leasing programs have found themselves inundated by litigation from environmentalists.

The Alaska shut-out hasn't elicited much of a response from people in the lower-48, maybe because many wrongly assume that the "tight" oil and gas boom means the U.S. no longer needs Alaskan energy.

Of course, we still do: the new development could generate many billions in government revenues and create tens of thousands of jobs. Offshore Alaska alone could generate $193 billion in new revenue and create 55,000 jobs nationally.

The bureaucratic obstruction in Alaska and throughout the country, designed solely to advance the Left's ideological agenda, is a scandal of its own, and it's one that has played out openly. The American people should remember that when it comes to their government, it doesn't have to be bribery or outright deception to be an outrageous abuse of power.

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