Obama’s 21st century policy directive: Manifest Inertia

During the 19th century Americans fulfilled our Manifest Destiny, settling the land, tilling the soil, building businesses and industries from coast to coast.

But in this 21st century President Obama and his legions of paperwork pushing, regulation writing, intransigent bureaucrats have instead given Americans a doctrine of Manifest Inertia — build nothing, grow nowhere, do nothing.

Just this past week Obama rejected a proposal to build the Keystone XL pipeline to carry Canadian crude oil to refineries in Texas, thus killing the opportunity to create 9,000 construction jobs and 40,000 ancillary jobs. This was despite the fact the State Department actually said that not building the pipeline would increase greenhouse emissions by 28 to 42 percent more than if the pipeline were built, because the oil would still be pumped but shipped in a less clean manner.

Battle Born Nevada is on the front lines of the Manifest Inertia fight, which began long before Obama took command. A dozen years ago or so a high ranking executive with the Interior Department, which controls the vast majority of Nevada land, explained during a newspaper editorial board meeting that the unwritten policy of the agency was “acre-for-acre” — meaning that for every acre of federal land that was sold for private development, an acre of private land somewhere else should be purchased, so the agency holdings would never decline. This was not a policy to preserve the land, but one to preserve federal jobs and the power of the executives.

This past week Obama put this policy in writing. In a presidential memoranda to the various agencies that control federal land, Obama told the agencies they “should establish a net benefit goal or, at a minimum, a no net loss goal for natural resources the agency manages …” To the bureaucrats, “no net loss” doubtlessly is “acre-for-acre” writ in stone.
To illustrate a few of the problems faced by businesses trying to run the gantlet of federal regulations being created by executive branch bureaucrats instead of elected members of Congress, Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy conducted a congressional subcommittee meeting this past week in North Las Vegas to hear testimony from small businesses about their ordeals. The hearing was titled “Regulatory Overload: The Effects of Federal Regulations on Small Firms.”

Hardy — whose district covers the northern portion of Clark County, the southern part of Lyon County and all of White Pine, Nye, Mineral, Esmeralda, and Lincoln counties — heard from officers of financial institutions in Caliente and Alamo, a rural electric executive from Overton and a representative of southern Nevada home builders.

In his introductory remarks, Hardy noted that the federal government is creating 600 pages of new regulations a day, covering every conceivable aspect of the economy and costing billions of dollars in compliance costs.

Both of the financial institution executives said financial regulations, such as Dodd-Frank, threaten their continued viability and, if they are forced to close, customers would have to drive many miles to conduct banking transactions. One has stopped mortgage loans altogether due to regulatory burdens and the other only does a handful a year.

David Jennings, a board member of the Southern Nevada Home Builders Association, testified that the Bureau of Land Management has begun to generate revenue for itself by deeming that the dirt excavated from construction sites constitutes a “mineral.” Since the BLM retains mineral rights, it is charging contractors for moving dirt — filing 84 so-called mineral trespass claims in recent years, Jennings said.

He added this practice is inflating the price of homes and pricing potential buyers out of the market.

Mendis Cooper, testifying on behalf of the Nevada Rural Electric Association, said the regulatory burden is threatening the ability to provide reliable and affordable electricity.

Ten years ago, Cooper related, it took about a year and $500 a mile to obtain permits from the BLM for transmission line rights of way. Today, it takes as long as eight years and $25,000 a mile.

He said costs are escalating for power customers due to compliance with Obama’s Clean Power Plan, protections for sage grouse and other species under the Endangered Species Act, having to route lines around new national monuments, the Environmental Protection Agency’s costly permits and restrictions under the Waters of the U.S. policy and countless other federal rules.

In an interview after the hearing, Hardy said the current practice of rule making by the administration has essentially usurped the role of Congress to write the laws of the land.

That’s how we got Manifest Inertia instead of Manifest Destiny.

Thomas Mitchell is a longtime Nevada newspaper columnist. You may email him at thomasmnv@yahoo.com. He also blogs at http://4thst8.wordpress.com/.

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