The GOP is at it again. A bill introduced by Rep. Cory Gardener (R-CO), called the Jobs and Energy Permitting Act of 2011, would “eliminate needless permitting delays that have stalled important energy production opportunities off the coast of Alaska.” In other words, it would get rid of regulation that is preventing oil companies from drilling in protected reserves off the coast of Alaska. There is also the reluctance to let oil companies drill in new places in Alaska because of the Exxon-Valdez spill.
An aspect of this bill that I find interesting is the fact that the writer of it phrased oil drilling as “energy production opportunities.” It almost begs the question as to whether the GOP knows how terrible more drilling sounds after the cold proof of the BP spill. Plus, while this bill was written beforehand, the recent spill in the Yellowstone River doesn’t place this bill in a better light.
Then, we come to my favorite part of the bill (emphasis added):
The bill would also eliminate the permitting back-and-forth that occurs between Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its Environmental Appeals Board. Rather than having exploration air permits repeatedly approved and rescinded by the agency and its review board, the EPA will be required to take final action – granting or denying a permit – within six months. All appeals will go to the D.C. Circuit Court for resolution because of the national implications of oil production on the Outer Continental Shelf and the need for consistency in decision-making.
Basically, this section establishes that any appeals made against EPA regulations will fall under the jurisdiction of the D.C. Circuit Court. While this seems unimportant, this is actually the most notable part of the bill. Out of the 13 judges on the bench of this court, 9 were appointed by Republican presidents. This means that, essentially, any appeals that claim the EPA regulations are too broad, or impose too much on businesses, will prevail. Gardener says that the reason for this provision is because of the “national implications of oil production” and the “need for consistency”. This makes absolutely no sense. While there are national implications, any Federal Appeals Court would be fit to handle cases related to EPA regulations. Just because this court is situated in D.C., it carries no more weight than any other Circuit Court of Appeals. As for the second point, this “consistency” only serves to limit justice. By restricting appeals cases to only one court, there will never be any differences in interpretations of laws, possibly resulting in a bias. This is especially true with the currently conservative Supreme Court, which is the only court above a Federal Appeals Court.