Skip to primary navigation Skip to main content

Democrats’ Energy Plan: Uncertainty and Unaccountability

May 13, 2014

President Obama’s policy on coal, oil, and natural gas projects keeps billionaire activists donating, radical environmentalists politicking, project supporters hoping, and potential investors hesitating. By slow-walking permit decisions or punting them past the next election, Democrats remain unaccountable to their constituents. By playing politics with American energy, the president jeopardizes desperately needed jobs.

The administration has been exploiting its existing permitting authority and wants to create new ones to block energy projects. The amount of time it’s taken to process the Keystone XL pipeline permit, liquefied natural gas export permits, and oil and gas drilling permits is unacceptable.

Obama energy delays

The Obama administration’s use of permitting delays in its war on fossil fuels has been widespread:

  • In 2011, the administration retroactively vetoed a permit for a coal mining project in West Virginia that had been approved four years earlier.
  • In February 2014, it threatened to preemptively veto a permit for a copper and gold mining project in Alaska — before mine developers even submitted an application.
  • The administration has proposed rules to block permits for coal-fired power plants unless they incorporate carbon capture and sequestration technology, even though CCS has not been adequately demonstrated on a commercial scale. These rules have already cost thousands of jobs in states like Kentucky, North Carolina, and Virginia — and will cost millions more if left unchecked.
  • The administration is trying to expand the definition of “navigable” waters of the United States – giving itself limitless jurisdiction to bully private landowners over permitting disputes that could lead to millions of dollars in fines. It is currently threatening a Wyoming welder with penalties that could reach more than $175,000 per day for building a stock pond on his eight-acre farm.  

Democrats have used their control of the Senate to protect the president’s anti-fossil fuel agenda. Last week, Senate Republicans sought votes on amendments to approve energy projects being filibustered by the president. Majority Leader Reid blocked those votes by filling the amendment tree, a procedural tactic he’s now employed 85 times. Senate Democrats have abused this tactic to stifle any meaningful opposition to the president’s energy policies for more than five years.

Even energy-state Democrats who claim to disagree with the president’s energy policies are complicit in protecting them. At best, these Senators are ineffective at convincing their Democrat colleagues to support fossil fuels. At worst, they publicly tout fossil fuels for political gain while privately tolerating their party’s pursuit of policies to eliminate them.

Of the 11 Senate Democrats who co-sponsored a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, only two made time to support the project during last week’s floor debate. One, Senator Landrieu, blamed Republicans for blocking consideration of the bill. But she knows that Democrats, not Republicans, control the Senate floor and can call up any bill at any time. Senator Landrieu even voted against Republican motions to make room on the amendment tree for pro-fossil fuel legislation she claims to support — buttressing the administration’s policies that target American energy. Yesterday, when Senate Republicans voted against Senator Reid’s move to block pro-energy amendments, Senator Landrieu and other energy-state Democrats voted in lockstep with their party leadership.      

Republicans will keep working to support energy projects until shovels break ground and more Americans are working again. This cannot happen until the administration stops imposing “permitoriums,” slow-walking leasing and environmental reviews, and proposing rules to undermine the fossil-fuel economy. The president continues his search for reasons to say “no” to routine permits. So Congress must act to move energy projects forward. Yet another meaningless speech, hearing, statement, or vote by energy-state Democrats will not be enough to prove they are up to the task. They are still playing politics with American energy jobs. All they are accomplishing is maintaining President Obama’s cloud of uncertainty over energy projects.