Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ken Salazar Gets a Kick in the You-Know-What

Ken Salazar Gets a Kick in the You-Know-What
Michelle Malkin

For all his John Wayne rhetoric on the BP oil spill, President Obama has failed to administer a swift kick to the ample, deserving rump of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. No matter. Federal judge Martin Feldman has now done the job the White House won't do.

In a scathing ruling issued Tuesday afternoon, New Orleans-based Feldman overturned the administration's radical six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling -- and he singled out Salazar's central role in jury-rigging a federal panel's scientific report to bolster flagrantly politicized conclusions. In a sane world, Salazar's head would roll. In Obama's world, he gets immunity.

The suit challenging Obama's desperately political ban was filed by Covington, La., rig company Hornbeck Offshore Services, which spoke on behalf of all the "small people" in the industry whose economic survival is at stake. As the plaintiffs' lawyer argued in court, the overbroad ban promised to be more devastating to Gulf workers than the spill itself. "This is an unprecedented industry-wide shutdown. Never before has the government done this," attorney Carl Rosenblum said.

Scientists who served on the committee expressed outrage upon discovering earlier this month that Salazar had -- unilaterally and without warning -- inserted a blanket drilling ban recommendation into their report. As Feldman recounted in his ruling:

In the Executive Summary to the Report, (Salazar) recommends "a six-month moratorium on permits for new wells being drilled using floating rigs." He also recommends "an immediate halt to drilling operations on the 33 permitted wells, not including relief wells currently being drilled by BP, that are currently being drilled using floating rigs in the Gulf of Mexico."

Much to the government's discomfort and this Court's uneasiness, the Summary also states that "the recommendations contained in this report have been peer-reviewed by seven experts identified by the National Academy of Engineering." As the plaintiffs, and the experts themselves, pointedly observe, this statement was misleading. The experts charge it was a "misrepresentation." It was factually incorrect.

Allow me to be more injudicious: Salazar lied. Salazar committed fraud. Salazar sullied the reputations of the experts involved and abused his authority.

And for what purpose? To exploit the Gulf crisis, appease the eco-extremists and stymie the economic recovery to which the Obama White House pays oily lip service.

The scientists whose views were misrepresented reportedly received an apology from the evidence-doctoring Salazar, but where are the consequences? Where is the accountability? Terrific news: Salazar, the report-rigger, is in charge of overseeing it. That's right. The Teflon Interior Secretary spent Monday afternoon swearing in another bureaucrat, litigator Michael Bromwich, who will head the newly named "Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement" (formerly the beleaguered Minerals Management Service).

According to Salazar, Bromwich "will be a key part of our team as we continue to change the way the Department of the Interior does business." Present company exempted, of course.

Feldman soberly illuminated the way the Department of Interior does business in concluding that Salazar's "invalid agency decision to suspend drilling of wells in depths of over 500 feet simply cannot justify the immeasurable effect on the plaintiffs, the local economy, the Gulf region and the critical present-day aspect of the availability of domestic energy in this country." Salazar, with his boss's blessing, imposed the blanket moratorium on Hornbeck and 33 permitted rigs without a shred of threat/safety analysis. Of course, Hope and Change have always been exercised with Arbitrary and Capricious power.

The White House immediately announced plans to appeal the ruling. But for once, Chicago-on-the-Potomac has run smack into the rule of law and lost. For all the other small people over whom the Obama administration has run roughshod, let’s hope it sets a lasting precedent.
Michelle Malkin rips Salazar on Hannity
posted at 10:55 am on June 24, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

After writing a scathing column on the Obama administration’s humiliating defeat in federal court over their drilling moratorium, the Boss Emeritus appeared on Sean Hannity’s show last night to expound on the subject further. Read the entire 22-page opinion, Michelle urges, because it may be the best corroboration of the consistent conservative assessment of Obama, which is that everything is manipulated to further political ends. Judge Feldman recognized the dishonesty in the government’s presentation and only thinly covered his contempt with legal jargon. Michelle rightly focuses on Ken Salazar for her ass-kicking column and appearance, but we should also keep Barack Obama front and center as well. Salazar fronted the drilling moratorium, but that was Obama’s decision. Either Obama heard the recommendations of the scientists that Salazar later misrepresented and decided to defy them, or he wasn’t engaged enough to bother finding out what his own expert panel had to say about the most exigent crisis in the US for the last two months. He’s either just as dishonest as Salazar — and keeping Salazar after this makes that even more clear — or he’s too busy playing golf and meeting with sports teams to care one way or the other.

The pushback on this criticism has been, “Well, you can’t expect the President to climb into a boat and go plug the leak himself!” Of course not — but we can expect him to pay attention to the panel of experts that he himself commissioned to deal with the crisis. If Obama is too disengaged to do even that much, then he’s not leading at all. And if he did listen and still decided to put a blanket moratorium on drilling despite their explicit rejection of such a move and allowed Salazar to lie about it, then he owns the dishonesty, and still owes the US an explanation as to why he defied his own self-selected experts in imposing that damaging policy.

To read another article by Michelle Malkin, click here.

Obama, Lord of the Rigs
David Harsanyi 6-23-10

Your moral bearings obviously have been corrupted by high concentrations of carbon dioxide.

You've gotten past that scandalous word -- "oil" -- for a moment and begun to wonder who gave the administration the authority to shut down a vital regional industry without a shred of scientific evidence or tangible safety concern.

Perhaps it's just that unshakable affection you have for BP (Exxon is also dreamy), but you wonder aloud how the administration has the power to extract $20 billion from a corporate partner -- without congressional or independent oversight or even an executive order -- and then name a political appointee to head up the fund and allow him to mete out the money any way he sees fit.

You're pretty sure, judging from the administration's track record -- from "stimulus" to the health care legislation to fiscal reform and so on -- that it would be patently absurd to trust it could divvy out billions without attaching political considerations.

Then again, you're a coal-lovin' shill. No, it doesn't matter that Barack Obama was the top recipient of BP's political action committee and individual bucks over the past 20 years. It is irrelevant that BP was a founding member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership and lobbies for cap-and-trade schemes.

According to The Wall Street Journal, in fact, the administration's compensation fund has a little something for BP, as well. "In the end," the piece states, "one aim of the fund -- and a prime reason BP agreed to it -- will be to minimize lawsuits against the company."

To minimize lawsuits against the company is the function of Kenneth Feinberg -- with imperial experience as auto bailout "compensation czar" -- who went on to say that he "will have to make an offer -- 'You take this amount in full satisfaction of your claim, but only if you waive your right to future litigation.'"

If BP had independently begun to offer similar ultimatums to Gulf-area citizens, rest assured Interior Secretary Ken Salazar would have unleashed one of his boot-to-the-throat smackdowns as he faced off against imaginary enemies near and far.

Salazar was the one who told Congress that experts backed his plan for a blanket moratorium on further deep-water drilling, when experts had said nearly the opposite. (Salazar later apologized.) Many engineers, in fact, warn that shutting down wells and then restarting drilling -- with the migration of drill rigs, technology and human capital -- would only increase risk in the long run.

And on Tuesday, some nitrous oxide-loving federal judge in New Orleans blocked the executive overreach, saying the administration "simply cannot justify the immeasurable effect on the plaintiffs, the local economy, the Gulf region, and the critical present-day aspect of the availability of domestic energy in this country."

Nor can the administration justify the escrow fund. BP already had pledged to waive the $75 million liability cap Congress had bequeathed the company. It had written 31,000 checks totaling more than $100 million before the compensation fund was established. There were very few complaints -- other than political ones aimed at Barack Obama.

Surely The American Trial Lawyers Association could enlighten the White House to the benefit and fairness of class action suits. If the arrangement is broken or too slow, shouldn't we have some tort reformed? Is it really "mediation" when the administration and an oil company collude to decide what's best for the victims?

As many on the left have argued for years, simply because we have an emergency or threat -- the war on terror, for example -- is no excuse to abuse executive power or ignore our excellent legal system.

Or does all that change because oil is involved?

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