Obama’s Arctic act leaves enviros cold

President Barack Obama may be leaning left on issues such as tax hikes and increased government spending for jobs, as he seeks to shore up his liberal base for his re-election bid, but some of his recent actions have angered one group of his supporters — environmentalists.

This week, Obama’s Interior Department announced it was proceeding with oil drilling leases near the Arctic Ocean off the northeast coast of Alaska.

A spokesman for Earthjustice immediately denounced the ruling, according to The Wall Street Journal. He said the administration had “flunked the test” of basing decisions on sound science.

The leases in the Chukchi Sea were originally approved in 2008, under the administration of President George W. Bush. Environmental groups filed suit the same year to block the development of the leases, and last year a federal judge ordered the Interior Department to reconsider portions of the sale, based on environmental concerns.

The agency did so and, according to the department’s Monday announcement, it has established drilling requirements for the leaseholders to address the concerns of environmentalists on such things as precautions in case of spills and mitigating impacts on wildlife.

The Arctic leases are the latest in a series of recent disappointments that conservation groups have with the president and his administration.

Just last month, Obama withdrew new regulations on ozone emissions proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency. Business groups said the rules would have been job killers.

Earlier this year, the administration dropped Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar’s plan to develop new protections for some federal lands under an administrative “wildlands” designation. That action occurred after Congress voted to withhold funding for implementing the program.

Perhaps Obama’s greatest test, as far as many environmentalists are concerned, will be whether he approves the Keystone XL Pipeline project, which would carry oil from Canada’s oil-sands fields in Alberta to refineries in Texas.

Many in the environmental community are adamantly opposed to the project. But, a president concerned about the nation’s continuing high unemployment rate, must carefully consider a project that is expected to create 20,000 jobs during the construction phase alone.

The pipeline would also carry more than a half-million barrels of oil a day from a country that’s our friend, rather than an enemy.

Because the Keystone XL Pipeline crosses an international border, the U.S. State Department has the final authority for approving it in this country. A decision by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected by the end of the year.

We have no idea what effect Obama’s recent actions on energy and environmental issues will have on his re-election chances. But we think he is on the right track in trying to improve the availability of our own energy resources and in seeking to increase American jobs in the process.


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