05.09.2011 1

Sen. Vitter Channels Reagan and Inspires Tea Party in Battle Against Federal Bureaucracy

By Kevin Mooney — Just prior to the one year anniversary of the moratorium on Gulf of Mexico, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) has announced that he will introduce the Agency Moratorium Act. The legislation would require congressional approval for expansion of federal regulations restricting energy exploration on federal lands and the Outer Continental Shelf that could provide domestic natural resources and generate revenue to the federal treasury that could be used to pay down the deficit.

In many respects, Sen. Vitter has picked up on one of the unfinished elements of the Reagan Revolution. Although the former president successfully expanded the private sector, he could never persuade lawmakers in either party to roll back the federal bureaucracy and eliminate federal agencies.

Sen. Vitter’s actions in this area should also inspire Tea Party activists who have expressed concern over the actions of runaway federal agencies. The transgressions of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) figure prominently into the equation and are already the subject of pending legislation. Vitter is aiming for the Interior Department and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation, which have both worked against the economic interests of the Gulf region.

Vitter’s legislation would do the following:

• Prevent any agency from prohibiting access to resources on federal lands and the OCS without congressional approval.
• Allow no designation under the Antiquities Act to be implemented without congressional approval.
• Require that any agency action that would expand a federal regulation for permitting on federal lands or make a designation of federal lands under any law to require the Commerce Department to first do a full economic analysis to see if it has the potential to reduce revenue to the federal treasury, and how it would impact property rights and existing contracts.

“The moratorium was one of the most poorly thought out, mismanaged and ill-conceived policy decisions regarding domestic energy production in the history of this country,” Vitter said in a press statement. “Look no further than $3.98 per gallon of gas or the seven rigs that have left the Gulf and five that are not working to see how damaging the moratorium has been to our economy. Enough is enough, and my bill would prevent those overreaching federal actions that would further destroy jobs on our domestic energy businesses.”

Earlier this year Vitter called out top Obama administration officials for issuing duplicitous and misleading statements on the correct number offshore drilling permits.

In a letter addressed to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Michael Bromwich, the BOEMRE director, Sen. Vitter (R-La.) details the discrepancy that exists between public statements and official filings.

“Over the last several weeks and months, you have indicated publicly, before Congress, and privately to members, including myself, that there are only a handful of permits awaiting agency action,” Vitter wrote. “It is a mathematical impossibility for your representations to be accurate, as well as the filings of the Department of Justice to be accurate. It is not possible for there to be ‘too few permits’ awaiting review, and simultaneously ‘too many’ permits being reviewed to make issuing a particular handful problematic.”

The numbers reported on page 11 of a motion the U.S. Justice Department filed last week tell a different story than what the Obama administration recently reported in congressional testimony and transmitted privately to elected officials. The motion seeks to stay federal judge Martin Feldman’s two recent orders directing BOEMRE to issue at least seven permits.

In its filing, the DOJ warns the court’s order could force a potentially harmful “re-prioritization,” since there are 270 shallow water permit applications pending and 52 deepwater permit applications pending.

In Salazar’s recent testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, he said the Interior Department had received only 47 shallow water permit applications over the past nine months and that only seven deepwater permit applications were pending. Bromwich told Vitter personally that only six deepwater permits were pending, and he publicly stated that deepwater permits would be limited because “only a handful of completed applications have been received.”

The free market will never be safe until constitutional boundaries are restored.

Kevin Mooney is a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government. You can follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinMooneyDC.

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