Topics: Barack Obama

Here's the man who knows what Ronald Reagan would do

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Ron Arnold,Columnists,Barack Obama,President,Interior,BP,Ronald Reagan,Analysis,Energy and Environment

Environmentalists want a Utopian world where they don’t use anything and deprive everyone else of affordable energy so they can’t use anything.

That barbed sentiment comes from a veteran of the Big Green power wars during President Ronald Reagan's administration: William Perry Pendley.

He's better known these days as Mountain States Legal Foundation's outspoken and ground-breaking president - his landmark Supreme Court win in the Adarand v. Pena civil rights case was called a “legal earthquake” by Time magazine.

His four books have established him as the go-to authority on natural resource politics and law.

Pendley earned his stripes not only as a reconnaissance navigator in the U.S. Marine Corps' Phantom II jet fighters, but also in the Department of the Interior as deputy assistant secretary of energy and minerals during the Reagan years.

It appears that managing a bureaucracy was the tougher of the two jobs from his new account, “Sagebrush Rebel: Reagan’s Battle with Environmental Extremists and why it Matters Today.”

I asked Pendley his thoughts on something that matters today: the recent demise of the Interior Department's little-known agency, the Minerals Management Service, which he helped create.

The MMS was dismantled at the direction of President Obama's appointee, Rhea Suh, profiled in this space previously.

“It came as no surprise,” Pendley told me, “It's the same power play as Obama's war on coal - to make energy so expensive that no one can use it.”

Why was the MMS such a prime target? “The MMS made the federal outer continental shelf oil and gas program efficient, so OCS oil and gas was less expensive to produce – the opposite of Obama’s goal – and that made it a target," he said.

“Before President Reagan,” Pendley explained, “the OCS drilling program's pre-leasing activity was run by the Bureau of Land Management and its post-leasing efforts by the Conservation Division of the U.S. Geological Survey.”

Reagan’s first Interior Secretary, James Watt, Pendley recalled, “took all OCS activity and created the Minerals Management Service to house it, ending a long-running, often acrimonious and inefficient turf battle between the two old-line Interior bureaus.

“Then, drilling companies had a one-stop shop to get permits and to pay royalty fees.” As a result, two Alaska sales soon yielded $2.9 billion in bonus bids.

The MMS made money for the Treasury in the hard-to-understand world of oil and gas and boosted energy products for Americans for nearly three decades.

The Washington Post sneered in disgust that, “MMS grew to become one the government's largest revenue collectors, after the Internal Revenue Service.”

Pendley said, “Getting rid of the Minerals Management Service for Obama was just a matter of finding the right justification, and BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster was it.”

The April 2010 BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was the largest and most traumatic marine oil spill in history.

An explosion killed 11 workers, 87 days of uncontrolled gushing did immense natural and human damage, and BP has paid $42.4 billion in criminal and civil penalties so far. All that is horrendous enough, but politics never lets a good crisis go to waste.

An Obama moratorium on ocean drilling by dozens of rigs with excellent safety records was struck down in court.

Pendley noted that Obama immediately created by executive order a supposedly bipartisan panel run by two Democrats (the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling) to “assess the disaster.”

Translated from Obamababble, what that really meant was “find reasons to stop offshore oil and gas production and regulate the industry out of existence.”

The panel’s report was a political joke, concluding that the isolated, unique BP disaster, “absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur.”

Thus, the efficient, thrifty, productive MMS was proclaimed the scapegoat and took the fall for BP’s culpability, hacked into three pieces with no job but to end the industry they regulate.

In conclusion, Pendley reiterated his leading thought: “Environmentalists probably believe their own propaganda, regardless how delusional it is.

"They want a utopian world where they don’t use anything and deprive everyone else of affordable energy so they can’t use anything.”

William Perry Pendley represents the profound institutional memory of a free people who will need it to rebuild after these dark times are swept away in a roar of joy.

RON ARNOLD, a Washington Examiner columnist, is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.
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