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Culture of contempt: Interior Department spanked yet again

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By Michelle Malkin  •  February 18, 2011 09:58 AM

This is becoming a weekly feature.

How long are Americans going to tolerate the determined disregard of the Obama administration’s job-killing, rule-of-law-defying environmental corruptocrats?

A little more than a week ago, I blasted the Interior Department’s culture of contempt for the umpteenth time. Let’s review one more time before we get to the latest spanking:

Oops, they did it again. President Obama’s grabby-handed environmental bureaucrats have earned yet another spanking from the federal judiciary over their “determined disregard” of the rule of law. Isn’t it time to give these misbehaving government hooligans a permanent timeout?

Federal judge Martin Feldman in Louisiana excoriated the Obama Interior Department Wednesday for defying his May 2010 order to lift its groundless ban on offshore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf. Nine months later, not a single permit has been issued. Several deepwater platforms have moved out of the area to take their businesses — and an estimated 5,000 jobs — overseas. Billions of dollars in potential oil revenue and Gulf lease sales-related rent have also dried up.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar — a.k.a. The Loathsome Cowboy — thumbed his nose at the judge’s preliminary injunction last June and dragged his feet into July, when his bureaucracy lost its bid for a stay from the U.S. Court of Appeals. Salazar then concocted a second “revised” moratorium to replace the one Feldman had nullified as “arbitrary and capricious, and therefore, unlawful.” The second deepwater drilling ban (which oil spill czar Michael Bromwich admitted was “roughly congruent with the original moratorium”) was “lifted” in October, but still no permits were issued.

This is because Team Obama’s eco-radicals never intend to approve them.

Every step of the way, the White House team has displayed unbridled defiance — by continually broadcasting its intent and determination to impose the blanket moratorium in spite of the judicial order, and by ramming through a second sweeping ban that did nothing to address the court’s concerns after the injunction was issued.

The Interior Department’s contempt for the law is outweighed only by its contempt for sound science.

Remember: Salazar is the data doctor who falsely claimed that the administration’s blanket moratorium report was endorsed and peer-reviewed by seven scientific experts — when, in fact, eight of the scientists studying the issue for the government explicitly said they “do not agree with the six-month blanket moratorium” on floating drilling.

Remember: The Interior Department inspector general publicized e-mails in November showing that Salazar’s office and former environmental czar Carol Browner’s office collaborated on the false rewrite of the White House offshore drilling ban report. While the inspector general found no conclusive evidence of wrongdoing and the White House denied any attempt to mislead the public, Feldman pointed out that “at the hearing on the first moratorium, in response to a question by the Court, the government’s answer then was wholly at odds with the story of the misleading text change by a White House official, a story the government does not now dispute.”

As GOP Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina would have put it more bluntly: “You lie.”

Yesterday, Judge Feldman got out his paddle and whacked Team Obama again over permitting decision delays:

A federal judge in New Orleans ordered the Obama administration to decide within 30 days whether to grant a set of five permits for deep-water drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico, saying the administration’s inaction on the requests is “increasingly inexcusable.”

The action by Judge Martin Feldman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana marks an extraordinary turn in the legal battle between the oil industry and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar over how quickly offshore drilling should be allowed to resume following last year’s oil spill involving BP that killed 11 workers and which ranks as the worst such spill in U.S. history.

The judge’s ruling comes as Republicans in Congress are increasing pressure on the Obama administration to allow more drilling. It also comes just weeks after the same judge accused the Obama administration of “determined disregard” of his order last June overturning a ban on offshore oil and gas drilling that the administration imposed shortly after the BP spill.

In his latest decision, issued Thursday, Judge Feldman ordered the Interior Department to decide within 30 days whether to approve five permit applications sought by London-based Ensco and submitted to the department as long ago as last April.

The Obama administration has said federal law imposes no specific timetable on the agency to make decisions on such projects. Feldman, in his ruling, said the government is required to act in an “expeditious” manner, and that “the time delays at issue here are unreasonable.”

“The rights involved here are more than economic: the plaintiff’s operations in the Gulf of Mexico are threatened with endless disability,” Judge Feldman wrote. “As the first anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster draws near, any reason that would have justified delays has, under a rule of reason, expired. Beginning to process permit applications will restore normalcy to the Gulf region and repair the public’s faith in the administrative process.”

“Increasingly inexcusable.” Perfect slogan for this White House, no?

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