SPECIAL REPORT: How environmentalists do it when Congress fails them

Iron Triangles: The closed, mutually supportive relationships that often prevail in the United States between the government agencies, the special interest lobbying organizations, and the legislative committees or subcommittees with jurisdiction over a particular functional area of government policy.
– A Glossary of Political Economy Terms

When Congress won’t pass a Big Green-favored proposal, environmentalists turn to their buddies in the federal bureaucracy.

 That’s the game plan of environmentalists campaigning to remove oil and gas drilling from huge swaths of energy-rich western federal lands — killing jobs and raising consumers’ travel and heating costs in the process.

They unsuccessfully lobbied Congress for more than two years using an unincorporated front group, Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development, which they started in 2007 with a $250,000 grant from the Hewlett Foundation.

SFRED was jointly created by three major environmental groups, the National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

The TRCP in turn was created in 2002 by Trout Unlimited acting as a legal money funnel for $2 million from the Pew Charitable Trusts. The Moore Foundation (Intel founder Gordon Moore’s philanthropy) gave TRCP $600,000 specifically  “to change the current course of energy development on public lands,” according to Moore’s 2005 IRS Form 990 tax return.

The SFREDers tried to achieve their goal this year, persuading Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., to slip a cleverly disguised oil and gas shutdown measure into a major bill in the House of Representatives that was being revised almost by the hour as it headed toward final passage.
Kind sat on the Insular Affairs, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee chaired by Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va. Kind was previously chairman of the powerful Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.

Kind completed a classic Washington Iron Triangle — rich donors, high-powered activists and powerful people in government.

The Wisconsin representative slipped the SFRED poison pill into the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act, which began its legislative life as a 95-page Obama-style reorganization of the Interior Department’s energy agencies and policies.

Then BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform blew up in the Gulf of Mexico, which Democrats in Congress used to justify cramming a host of draconian new offshore drilling regulations into the CLEAR bill, bloating it from 95 to 222 pages, and 903 numbered sections.

When Rahall agreed to Kind’s SFRED amendment, it became “Section 238 — Wildlife Sustainability” in the final bill sent to the House floor. It affected Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service energy-rich lands containing an estimated 20 billion barrels of oil and 186 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The words “oil” and “gas” appeared nowhere in the amendment, but it mandated a bewildering new array of wildlife regulations capable of stopping virtually all resource development on and under the affected federal lands.
Monitoring species populations became the overriding mandate, thus preventing “due consideration” of any other resource use on federal lands.

Section 238 was also the perfect magnet for endless lawsuits and other paralysis-by-analysis tactics by environmental activists. Not only would oil and gas drilling become impossible, so would timbering, grazing, mining, off-road recreation and any other rural development.

But “Wildlife Sustainability” sounded so good. It didn’t sound so good, though, when representatives who had carelessly voted for the bill in committee actually read Section 238. Their rebellion was so ferocious they forced House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to order Section 238 stricken from the bill the House approved. It is bogged down now in the Senate.

Skunked in Congress, SFREDers turned to their friends in the bureaucracy, many of whom were former colleagues in the nonprofit world.

When Obama signed his October 2009 executive order mandating Climate Change Adaptation plans, environmental bureaucrats got new regulatory authority.

The well-funded SFRED (the three parent groups took in more than $101 million in 2008) has stepped up its propaganda mill to pressure the BLM, Forest Service, and state governments, using their alarming report, “Hunting and Fishing Imperiled, Energy development threatens 10 of the most important fish and wildlife habitats on America’s public lands” as a hammer.

In Colorado, they’re pushing the BLM to settle a lawsuit canceling proposed oil and gas leases on the Roan Plateau.  In Montana, they’re pushing the Forest Service, the BLM, and state and private landowners in a six-county area to develop a vast conservation plan before any development is allowed, and hassling the BLM to stop natural gas production in the Powder River Basin.

In New Mexico, they’re lobbying Gov. Bill Richardson to ban gas leasing in the Salt Basin. In Utah, they’re demanding the Forest Service cancel its years-long planning process and conduct a new “forestwide oil and gas leasing environmental impact statement” before any development is allowed.

In Wyoming, they’re lobbying the Fish and Wildlife Service to declare the cutthroat trout an endangered species and urging the state to rule that ‘habitats that have not been developed or leased at this point should remain free from development activities and be withdrawn from future leasing.”

Environmental activists know more than one way to kill energy development in America. SFRED knows them all.

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