Obama-Appointed Judge Blocks New Oil Drills on Fed Land To Battle 'Climate Change'

P. Gardner Goldsmith | March 26, 2019
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On March 19, Obama-appointed D.C. Federal District Judge Rudolf Contreras blocked the Trump administration from allowing oil exploration on 500 square miles (300,000 acres) of land the feds claim in Wyoming.

His reason?

The bogeymen of carbon dioxide and “Anthropogenic Climate Change.”

The court in “Wildearth Guardians , et al. v Zinke et al.” issued a Memorandum of Summary Judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, a coalition of environmental groups intent on stopping new oil and gas drilling on that parcel of 500 square miles in Wyoming, a state in which large numbers of people have seen great economic benefits from energy exploration, while others have seen some drawbacks from it, especially fracking.

The opinion mentions “Climate Change” right off the bat:

Climate change, and humanity’s ability to combat it, are increasingly prominent topics of public discourse.

Which begs the question – never answered by the court: does the court mean naturally occurring changes in the climate, most closely correlated to solar fluctuations, or do they mean “Anthropogenic Climate Change,” which is theoretical, politicized, and unproven?

You can likely guess. Judge Contreras means the latter, and so his opinion will be built on that questionable non-foundation, and upon a lot of other erroneous political assumptions few Americans bother to question.

Partially based on a 2007 Supreme Court Ruling called “Massachusetts v Environmental Protection Agency” that burdened the EPA with regulating carbon dioxide as a “pollutant”, Contreras’ court determined:

 Given the national, cumulative nature of climate change, considering each individual drilling project in a vacuum deprives the agency and the public of the context necessary to evaluate oil and gas drilling on federal land before irretrievably committing to that drilling.

Which, of course, has nothing to do with actual emissions, because the production of oil is different from the burning of oil – even if one were to accept the unproven claims that on Earth, burning of carbon-bound fuel contributes to “climate change”. And if the court is trying to claim (which it is not) that the act of exploring on “federal lands” requires the burning of fossil fuels, so it must be blocked and studied before it’s allowed, then all government actions involving the use of fossil fuels – including the heat and electricity for the D.C. Federal District courthouse – ought to be blocked as well.

We can dream.

In fact, as Alex Newman notes for The New American, the ruling carries significant implications for federal energy exploration in other areas.

Just this week, a radical Obama-appointed federal judge temporarily blocked oil exploration across some 300,000 acres of land in Wyoming. The reason: The Trump administration did not properly consider the hypothetical impacts of CO2 emissions on “climate” when granting permission to explore for energy there. Sensible voices have expressed hope that the bizarre ruling will be overturned. But critics of the ruling said the Trump administration must take urgent action or risk further rulings like this.

And such thoughts are warranted, but they merely tinker around the edges and don’t address the heart of the problem.

The heart of the problem is composed of three major pieces. The first is the existence of the “federal land” that causes these disputes in the first place.

As I have written previously for MRCTV, the U.S. Constitution only grants the federal government power to run three categories of land. The first is the District of Columbia, the second is composed of federal garrisons for troops, and the last is composed of federal territories.

According to the Constitution, when a territory enters the union, it enters with all the rights and privileges of any State. And there is no requirement that states cede land to the feds. In fact, even if there were one, there is no provision in the Constitution as to how the feds could manage such land anyway.

As a result, all land claimed by the federal government for “natural preservation” or for “parks” or even to offer to corporations for oil exploration is not supposed to be under federal control. It is supposed to be controlled by the states wherein the land is located, or, better yet, by private individuals who would buy or sell it and adjudicate disputes through property rights claims.

Because the lands is not privately owned, no one can actually say how people value it, or for what purposes. Perhaps the land would be valued highest for its natural wonder and tourism, for preserving animals… Perhaps it would be valued highest for mineral extraction. Perhaps it would be valued for both, or neither. We cannot tell because individuals are not allowed to place a private property ownership value on the land and its potential uses. Instead, everyone is forced to pay for it and everyone argues over how it will be used.

They also argue over potential harm caused by the use proposed by the Trump administration, hence the ruling we see here.

Yet the ruling, and Environmental Protection Agency regulations, are predicated on an improper view of tort law, which goes back to British Common Law, and is about people and their property being harmed. Simply put, in order to make a tortious claim against someone, Common Law tradition requires that someone show real harm – to himself or his property.

Not only is the EPA not a person, those, like Judge Contreras, who argue that the government must determine the costs of mitigating “climate harm” prior to allowing oil exploration cannot present any actual individuals who have claimed personal harm to themselves or their property. And if individuals were to make tortious claims over so-called “Anthropogenic Climate Change”, charging oil companies for damages, they would have a monumentally difficult time proving damage and proving that carbon fuels were causing said damage.

Instead, we have fantasy layered upon fantasy. The fantasy of “Anthropogenic Climate Change” is layered upon a SCOTUS ruling that CO2 is a pollutant. Those are layered upon the fantasy that the EPA can act as a litigant for tortious claim, or that the EPA can preemptively stop actions when no one has actually claimed harm to person or property. And those are layered upon the fiction that the federal government has any constitutional authority to run the so-called “federal land” in Wyoming or any state.

These are important factors to consider when seeing reports on this, but most often, they are overlooked on both the pro-drilling and anti-drilling sides.

There is another side: freedom.

Shame people miss the chance to strike the root and understand it.