John Podesta hasn’t wasted any time since he stepped foot into the White House in January. As special advisor to President Obama, Podesta is the mastermind of many controversial policies to come out of the White House, particularly how to interpret and implement environmental laws.
The policies advocated for by Podesta emphasize President Obama’s unprecedented executive power and ability to subvert Congress. Particularly concerning President Obama’s desire to dictate federal land management in an effort to weaken the oil and natural gas industry in America. In the fall of 2013, after meeting interest groups opposed to oil and natural gas development, the Bureau of Land Management suddenly pulled drilling leases 5 days before their auction was scheduled. Not only did this meeting violate the agency’s own policies, but the area set for auction was the San Rafael Swell, one of Podesta’s targets for national monument designation.
In 2003, Podesta founded the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in the heart of Washington, D.C. Pushing for Obama to use his authority to get radical policies enacted, CAP published “The Power of the President” in 2010. John Podesta wrote a forward for the white paper urging the President not to compromise with Republicans but to instead use his executive power to bypass Congress.
“The Power of the President” is filled with an extensive number of measures the President can take, almost entirely without Congress. The suggested areas for ‘opportunity’ include a variety of subjects, but one stands out among the rest: energy and environmental policy.
Within its text, Podesta and his team at CAP write on the actions President Obama should take to dictate the oil and natural gas industry. In the section concerning land ‘conservation’, they discuss Obama’s power through the Antiquities Act:
The president should designate more than a dozen new national monuments and include them in the National Landscape Conservation System, which offers enhanced protection to BLM-managed public land… Among the areas cited by the BLM for possible monument designation are the San Rafael Swell in Utah, 2.5 million acres of northern prairies in Montana, the 1.2 million-acre Otero Mesa in New Mexico, and parts of the Owyhee Desert in Idaho and Nevada.
At a first glance, nothing seems out of place. But when you find out that Western Energy Alliance has an appeal filed against the Bureau of Land Management because of pulled leases in the San Rafael Swell, you might want to look a little closer at what is really going on. America’s vital energy sources are being attacked, and the White House is spearheading the onslaught.
In order to fully understand the controversial situation at hand in the Midwest, we have composed a timeline of events:
August 16, 2013: The Bureau of Land Management announces it will be selling leases to 82 land parcels in the San Rafael Swell in an auction to be held on November 19th in Salt Lake City.
September 16, 2013: Once the land leases are announced, there is a one month protest period. According to the Bureau of Land Management, “All protests must be received no later than 4:30 p.m., Sept. 16, 2013.” No protests are to be heard or accepted after the deadline.
October 23, 2013: Federal land managers hold a closed-door, private meeting with the Utah Rock Art Research Association and others protesting land parcels.
November 7, 2013: A subsequent letter following up with the concerns raised in the meeting is sent to the Bureau of Land Management, nearly two months after the close of the protest period.
November 14, 2013: The Bureau of Land Management Utah State Director Juan Palmato announces that they will be pulling 57 of the leases (5 days before the auction). There was no indication they would be pulling any leases in the months following the protest period. As a result, energy companies spent $500,000 surveying the land parcels.
December 10, 2013: John Podesta is reported to be joining the White House as Counselor to the President on January 1, 2014.
January 13, 2014: Western Energy Alliance files an appeal before the Interior Land Appeals Board, asking the judges to require the Bureau of Land Management to offer the parcels at the next auction, providing evidence of the BLM not following procedure and having an environmentalist bias.
Let’s not forget that the first place slated for possible monument designation by Podesta and the Center for American Progress is the San Rafael Swell. Furthermore, many other areas slated for monument designation hold vital resources. In early 2013, the Star Tribune reported that there were nearly 7.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil under parts of North Dakota and Montana. Even more startling is that the prairies of northern Montana are rich in oil and gas. Furthermore, the Otero Mesa and Owyhee Desert have both been sought after for their resources.
Podesta’s agenda is clearly an assault on natural gas and oil production in the United States. In the section following monument designation, the Center for American Progress outlines their goal of “transitioning the nation to clean, renewable energy sources that will increase our security and reduce carbon pollution”, and then advises Obama to therefore “rescind E.O. 13212 and E.O. 13211, which mandated oil and natural gas development be the overriding consideration in land management”. As Counsel to the President, Podesta holds significant power in pushing through these policies using the president’s authority.
Clearly, the goal for Podesta and now the Obama Administration is the sabotage of our energy resources at the expense of the American people. According to the Washington Post, Podesta has recently met with Democrats behind closed doors to discuss where they can put federal lands off limit to development. And let’s not forget that Podesta was Chief of Staff for President Clinton, who put more land into national monuments than any other president before him. “The nostalgic memories of the Clinton administration are not so sweet for those of us in the West who are still trying to recover,” said Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah). Oil dependency internationally is continually a controversial issue, as conflict boils in many regions of the world and resource dependency places the U.S. in a problematic situation.
Luckily, a bill sponsored by Representative Rob Bishop (R-Utah) makes national monument declaration an open public process through applying NEPA to the president. Furthermore, each declaration must be accompanied by a feasibility study estimating the cost of managing the monument, while also including the loss of state and local revenues in the process. Land including private property is also prohibited from declaration unless there is written consent from the owner. Representative Bishop’s bill passed the house a few weeks ago, but now sits in the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, where Reid is likely to keep it unless attention is drawn to the threat posed to our resources and economy.
Drilling on our own soil creates jobs, less oil dependence, the potential for exports, and will give the U.S. more leverage internationally. Unfortunately, unless Rep. Bishop’s legislation, H.R. 1459, is passed by the Senate, President Obama will continue to abuse his executive authority to stifle oil and natural gas development.