A U. S. District Judge has ruled in favor of Western Energy Alliance which sought to reinstate previous oil and gas drilling provisions on federal lands. Also this week in a hard slam to the heart of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the individual health care mandate forcing Americans to purchase health care insurance, or face a penalty. The suit against the mandate was joined by 26 states. See a Western Energy Alliance video below.
In the Western Energy Alliance, the judge found that “recognizable injury” was suffered by members of the Alliance from the administration’s delay tactics:
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A judge on Friday threw out Obama administration rules that sought to slow down expedited environmental review of oil and gas drilling on federal land.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal ruled in favor of a petroleum industry group, the Western Energy Alliance, in its lawsuit against the federal government, including Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
The ruling reinstates Bush-era expedited oil and gas drilling under provisions called categorical exclusions on federal lands nationwide, Freudenthal said.
The government argued that oil and gas companies had no case because they didn’t show how the new rules, implemented by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service last year, had created delays and added to the cost of drilling.
Freudenthal rejected that argument…
The circumstances include instances where companies plan to disturb relatively little ground and environmental review already has been done for that area. A categorical exclusion also can be invoked when additional drilling is planned at a well pad where drilling has occurred within the previous five years.
“Western Energy has demonstrated through its members recognizable injury,” she said. “Those injuries are supported by the administrative record.”
From the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ three-judge panel, the case is likely to go to the full Appeals court at the request of government lawyers. The final decision is expected to come from the U.S. Supreme Court. Republicans and others have asked that the case be expedited to the Supremes, something the Obama administration has been loathe to do.
In the court challenges, the states and other critics argued the health care reform law violates people’s rights, while the Justice Department countered that the legislative branch was exercising a “quintessential” power.
The 11th Circuit decision, penned by Chief Judge Joel Dubina and Circuit Judge Frank Hull, found that “the individual mandate contained in the Act exceeds Congress’s enumerated commerce power.”
“What Congress cannot do under the Commerce Clause is mandate that individuals enter into contracts with private insurance companies for the purchase of an expensive product from the time they are born until the time they die,” the opinion said.
Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus said in a lengthy dissent that the majority ignored the “undeniable fact that Congress’ commerce power has grown exponentially over the past two centuries, and is now generally accepted as having afforded Congress the authority to create rules regulating large areas of our national economy.”
The Atlanta-based court is considered by many observers to be the most pivotal legal battleground yet because it reviewed a sweeping ruling by a Florida judge. Source: Telegraph
Previously a Florida federal judge ruled the mandate unconstitutional, and struck down the entire Affordable Care Act, which instigated the hearing at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 11th Circuit did not strike down the entire Act, but agreed that the mandate did not fit within the Constitution’s Commerce Act, and the penalty for not buying health insurance, should a citizen choose that option, does not fit within Congress’ power to tax (penalize).
On the Western Energy Alliance I followed a link to an August 10th op-ed by Bobby Ryan, Vice President of Global Exploration for Chevron:
One way to help restart our economic engine is to encourage new investment and growth in the energy sector, which currently supports more than 9.2 million American jobs.
We stand ready to create thousands of new jobs and generate billions of additional dollars for the economy by safely developing new energy sources right here at home.
According to a recent analysis by the American Petroleum Institute, oil and natural gas companies contributed more than $470 billion to the U.S. economy in spending, wages and dividends in 2010. This is more than half the size of the 2009 federal stimulus package – yet this stimulus did not require a Congressional vote or taxpayer dollars. Additionally, our industry is a tremendous revenue source for cash-strapped federal, state and local governments – paying about $86 million a day in taxes, fees and royalties.
The U.S. is an energy powerhouse. Estimates of our resource potential are considerable. For example, many experts believe the U.S. could have enough oil offshore to power more than 130 million cars for 25 years and enough natural gas for 70 million homes for 90 years.
Read that op-ed here for some interesting information on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and reminder that Barack Obama has called for a 30% reduction in oil imports in just 14 years. For more stats on what our energy industry brings to the welfare of our Nation, read Big Oil: What It Pays America. The video below is really interesting. I hope you have two minutes to watch.
Drilling in the West – Regulations Take 9 Years Lead-Time (video)