While there seems to be a lot of Regulatory Agency activities these days – with changing of directors, indictments of outgoing directors, and also indictments of incoming directors, there are also a lot of monumental actions pending, and have been pending for an inordinate amount of time.
Over the last two years we have had the chance to review and comment on a pile of proposals, including the proposed revisions of the NOAA Acoustical Guidelines, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the revision (read “giveaway”) of the National Monuments and Sanctuaries, the revision (read “giveaway”) of the National Parks and Monuments, the review of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) 5-year leasing plan, and the final permitting of the Mid and South Atlantic Seismic Surveys. Most of these are still pending release.
This worries me a bit. While there are some logical reasons for the traffic jam – inadequate staffing, and the “Government Shutdown” notwithstanding, typically a “Record of Decision” (ROD) for these sorts of proposals is released within a few months after the close of the public comment period. But many of these ugly proposals have been simmering for over a year now.
If the Agencies are synthesizing all of the public comments, the delay could be reconciled with the sheer volume of the comments. If it takes a minute to process any comment, it would take 6250 person/days to process the three million public comments that came in on the Parks and Monuments proposal alone (98% of which said “don’t mess with our Parks and Monuments). Even if duplicated comments were aggregated, it still amounts to a lot of time. But these delays seem a bit different.
When I was in elementary school there was this “not all there” kid – Peter, who would hoist one of the large river rocks our town was known for (Claremont potatoes) and just carry it around the playground over the course of recess. Everyone would keep Peter in the corner of our eye, knowing that at some point that stone would come down somewhere…
This is sort-of how I feel at the moment. There are some perceivable activities going on backstage, which was apparent in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearings on the appointment of David Bernhardt to be the head of the Department of Interior. It appears as though the OCS 5-year plan is being delayed until he is comfortably seated. But then a well-placed monkey wrench was tossed into the trajectory last week when 9th Circuit Court Judge Sharon Gleason ruled that areas protected by President Obama under the Outer Continental Lands Act could not be withdrawn by a succeeding president. Any withdrawal is exclusively delegated to Congress.
Earth Justice’ Erik Graff was hoisted up on our collective shoulders for this brilliant environmental defense. In addition to protecting the Arctic and the North Atlantic Canyons area, it also pushed the universally-reviled 5-year OCS lease plan down the road a bit – perhaps enough to have in interfere with the 2020 elections. (I pause here for a momentary Snoopy dance.)
But there remains an uncomfortable number of stones still being hauled around the playground: The NEPA Review, The ESA Review, Parks and Monuments Review, the Monuments and Sanctuaries Review, the Seismic Survey Permits, and the 5-year plan – have either not reported out of the agencies, or are under legal challenges.
All of these motions have been in the sites of the oilmen for 40 years now. And now that they have all of their shills in Congress (and the Whitehouse) and all of their lobbyists directing the agencies charged with regulating their industry, I doubt that they want to let “their moment” slip through their fingers easily. And as they have been throwing the entire planet under their fossil-fueled bus for 40 years, it would not likely be beyond them to stage some unpleasant distraction to hold on to their position.
My prayer is that humanity prevails.