by Greg Walcher, E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow
As appearing in the Daily Sentinel
With another federal oil and gas drilling moratorium looming, fewer pundits are accusing the government of picking winners and losers — because it’s difficult to see any winners. It seems more like the old grade-school trick of “heads I win, tails you lose.” The larger question should be, how in the world did the American people ever grant such power — the power to destroy thousands of jobs and devastate western economies — to any one individual?
Of course, they didn’t. Some might argue that elections are policy decisions, with consequences. On the other hand, no candidate ran on a platform of ignoring the legislative process, and governing the country by edicts and decrees. In the U.S. we call them executive orders, an extra-constitutional process that has evolved over time.
Today Americans are embroiled in a bewildering array of political arguments, from immigration to vaccine administration, stemming from executive orders, several of them repealing previous executive orders. One of the most onerous, for Colorado, is the pending ban on public lands of oil and gas leases. It is contrary to properly enacted laws, and to land management plans duly adopted through a carefully defined legal process. But that does not make the ban any less real for the West. Drilling on federal lands yielded $1.8 billion directly to states in 2020, supporting schools and numerous conservation programs.