The Interior Department's Culture of Contempt

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 [PDF] 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."

In addition to the lost jobs and lost revenue already sacrificed at the altar of "safety," the Interior Department will now siphon tax dollars to pay for the "substantial" legal fees of the plaintiffs as a result of the contempt ruling. Another affected business, Century Exploration New Orleans, Inc., filed a drilling ban-related complaint against the department last week claiming breach of contract—which could add yet more millions or billions to publicly subsidized legal costs.

Jim Adams, president and CEO of the Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA), noted the massive gap between Obama's words and actions this week: "[T]housands of workers are out of jobs, Americans are paying more for gasoline and heating oil, and our nation is becoming even more dependent on unstable nations for our energy needs. President Obama talks a lot about jobs and energy independence. Now it's time for him to back up his words with action and call off his de facto moratorium. Americans want an end to this manmade disaster."

But instead of reining Salazar in, the White House is happy to let him wage the administration's continuing war on the West with impunity. Despite pleas from both Democratic and Republican officials at all levels of government to retreat from an administrative usurpation of wild lands that he slipped through during the Christmas season lame duck session, Salazar is moving full speed ahead. Adding audacious insult to economic injury, Salazar this week unveiled new "scientific integrity rules" to "end political manipulation of science" and "encourage an environment of rigorous open discussion."

The Obama culture of corruption meets the culture of contempt. It's a toxic slick that will ultimately be left to voters to clean up.

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Michelle Malkin [email her] is the author of Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores. Click here for Peter Brimelow's review. Click here for Michelle Malkin's website. Michelle Malkin is also author of Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild and the just-released Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies.