Search This Blog

16.8.06

Blanco wasting taxpayer dollars with nuisance suit

The oil lease sale scheduled for today will go on, but it’s anybody’s guess as to which will conclude first, the start of actual production of the leases, or the state’s nuisance suit that, at best, will end up wasting precious state taxpayers’ dollars.

At the beginning of the week, U.S. District Court Judge Kurt Englehardt ruled that the suit by Gov. Kathleen Blanco to stop the sale, on the basis that the U.S. Mineral Management Service had not conducted a serious environmental impact review (that is, not incorporating the effects of the 2005 hurricanes) of the results of the sale on Louisiana, could not stop it. Yet, interestingly he opined that the state had a strong case and, when heard in full, could well render the state’s position a winner.

In other words, the ruling was that letting the sale go on would cause no irreparable harm to Louisiana if, in fact, a flawed review process had occurred and the MMS had underestimated the environmental damage. The judge did indicate that there were points on which he would agree, when he heard the case in full in November, that the process had been flawed.

Allowing the sale to go forward made sense for three reasons. First, the case is about a process, not about the actual assessments made about environmental degradation. Second, it will be years before any activity can take place concerning development of the leases, so holding it up wasn’t going to change anything. Third, the lease sale itself is really off the coast of Texas, not Louisiana, so it may be difficult to argue there is any impact at all even if the process is found to be flawed.

Naturally, Blanco misidentified what happened, asserting that the suit is about an outcome, not a process. Much like her Democrat colleagues in Washington who want to declare a rebuilt Iraq can stand on its own and withdraw American forces contrary to objective conditions that such forces still are needed, the state tried to tell the media that it meant “our concerns are valid regarding the impact of this activity on our environment and that the federal government is acting in disregard of our environment.”

Not at all. Let’s say that MMS was found not to have reviewed all current relevant information about the environmental impact. Assuming that it doesn’t appeal the case to a higher court which well could reverse a single judge’s decision, it could get the new information, review it, and come up with the same no-impact judgment. Then what is the state going to do, file a suit disagreeing with the outcome on its merits? That would be like somebody denied Social Security disability benefits by an examiner suing the government because he disagreed with the outcome by saying the examiner did a bad job. For something like that, even if the judiciary would grant standing to such a political suit between two parts of government, it would take a blatant case of incompetence or bias to rule in the state’s favor – and that’s very unlikely to be the case as long as MMS shows they consulted expertise on the matter. And it all will take years to sort out while lease sales go on and production commences.

So, in the final analysis, this all is just a political stunt that really wastes state taxpayers’ dollars twice (at both the state and federal levels). Because Blanco has failed in exerting leadership on the matter of hurricane protection and coastal erosion, and to cover up her incompetent handling of the hurricane disasters of 2005, this is a ploy to make it look like she’s doing something, drawing upon the latent populism of Louisiana’s political culture to try to make somebody else (the federal government, conveniently in the hands of the opposing political party) look like the bad guy to divert examination of her own record.

If she really wanted to help, she needs to support publicly and vigorously the efforts of Rep. Bobby Jindal and others to secure in federal law the state a greater share of offshore drilling loyalties. (But she won’t because he is her likely opponent in next year’s governor’s race and it would cement in the public’s mind her failures as well as give him credit.) For the good of the state, she needs to put its interests first and stop this nonsense.

1 comment:

Nick said...

Though I believe Governor Blanco is quite the airhead, I support just about any action that can be used to wake up the federal government to the fact that we are tired of getting screwed out of just royalties and/or compensation for the oil & gas services our state supplies to the rest of the nation. If Florida can raise hell about a bill that opens up the OCS, which is so far off the coast that none of its tourists will even see the rigs, and win with its stupid arguements, then we might as well try.