To be fair, President Obama’s executive-order output hasn’t unreasonably outpaced that of his predecessors – his especial willingness to actively circumvent Congress and snatch huge gobs of power for the federal bureaucracy only makes it feel like he has.
In July of 2010, President Obama signed executive order 13547 – “Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes.” There wasn’t much hullabaloo about it, since it was just post-BP oil spill and it was ostensibly designed to allow the federal government to better safeguard – er, you know – ecosystems! And, sustainability! And other such politically-soothing environmental buzzwords. The broad policy afforded the feds the authority to zone and regulate the seas and waterways, and all of the activities that take place on them.
There is a great deal of commercial economic activity that goes down on our oceans, including energy, fishing, travel, and shipping, and then when you move upriver and inland, there’s mining, timber, recreation, agriculture, manufacturing, and other industries that make use of our nation’s aquatic networks. As with any large, complex endeavor with many relevant players and countless moving parts, the federal bureaucracy’s attempt to “oversee,” a.k.a. regulate and centrally plan, that endeavor usually just gums up the works and retards economic growth.
In four separate Congresses, legislation outlining the idea of zoning the oceans has been debated and subsequently dropped. Did President Obama bother to ask whether the current Congress would authorize such a move? Well, that would just be silly, when there’s executive fiat to be had, and several effects of this vaguely-defined order have begun to manifest themselves:
“This one to me could be the sleeping power grab that Americans will wake up to one day and wonder what the heck hit them,” said Rep. Bill Flores (R –Texas). …
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.
Jack Belcher, managing director of the Ocean Policy Coalition that represents numerous industries affected by Obama’s initiative including oil companies, says Salazar’s action is one example of how the administration is already blocking new production “on a policy that hasn’t even been developed yet.”
Still in its draft form, the plan released in January contains vague goals that call for more than 150 milestones to be accomplished by next year that will determine how the ecosystem is managed. …
“But what we are worried about, and already seeing, is it’s being used as a tool to say we’re not going to do something, or delay it,” Belcher said. “It creates another layer of bureaucracy and another opportunity for litigation. We see this as an opportunity to tie things up in complete uncertainty.” …
“This has largely been completely under the radar,” Vitter said. “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.”
The gist of this executive order is just another environmentalist front for a regulatory power grab, and a major way to expand the government’s authority over oil and gas permitting. No doubt the environmental lobby really does hope to eventually closely regulate all of the ocean’s economic activity, since they’re convinced that the earth (not to be confused with humankind) would be better off if we could rewind our industrial habits back a few thousand years.
Both House and Senate Republicans are starting take note of the disastrous economic impact the Obama administration could exercise with this order, recently asking for oversight hearings and more transparency on “cloaked funding,” and the House Natural Resources Committee is fighting back. Here’s Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) on Fox News earlier this week with more insight: