By Rep. John Fleming (R-La.)
The Obama Administration power grab continues. This time the president wants to seize more executive control over a massive piece of real estate: our oceans, the tributaries that lead to them, and the inland areas that surround those waterways.
Plenty of regulations, on the federal, state, and local levels, already govern the supervision of our oceans and coastlines. An estimated 140 laws are on the books for managing fisheries, offshore energy development, and marine conservation.Instead of cutting out the overlap and redundancy, and lessening the heavy burden of government rules, the Obama Administration is following a course that will create broad new regulations and expand Executive Branch overreach. Just months after President Obama took office he formed a panel of federal bureaucrats and told them to create a “national policy” that would oversee oceans, coastlines, and the Great Lakes. Then, by executive order, the president launched a National Ocean Council which led to nine smaller panels. As the layers of federal bureaucracy pile up, so have the guarantees that the outcome – the president’s National Ocean Policy – will be another top-down, centralized plan that tramples the power of states and the rights of individual citizens.
Perhaps the simplest way to describe this policy and council is to envision a national zoning board for oceans and all of the inland communities and activities that might affect the oceans. You’ve probably dealt with a local zoning board that keeps order between residential neighborhoods and busy commercials areas. You may not always agree with their decisions, but we can all appreciate local control over such matters.
President Obama’s National Ocean Policy takes zoning to a massive scale, giving Washington pencil pushers more power to decide what activities are acceptable in the ocean zones they create. And when federal agencies are authorizing activities, the converse can be assumed: they will close off other activities, and limit authorized activities only to approved zones. The uncertainty that results will further limit economic growth.
To make matters worse, this new National Ocean Policy will reach far inland with new zoning plans, and could use ocean water quality as a way of threatening even farming and forestry practices.
The president’s plan enhances uncertainty by giving precedent to ecosystem health over the economic impact of human activities, even if those activities were previously authorized or occurring in an area. That means government bureaucrats, working behind closed doors, may decide that their views on climate change or water quality – both priorities in the policy – will win out over the longstanding interests of people who have depended for decades on the oceans and waterways for their livelihood.
Imagine putting those decisions, along with the vague and undefined policy goals of the executive order, in the hands of special interest groups whose agenda is to abolish virtually all human activity. The litigation and court challenges will be endless, and the permits that fishermen and coastal businesses need to continue making a living will be hard to come by.
Fleming (R-La.) is chairman of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs. He is a physician and small business owner and represents the 4th Congressional District of Louisiana.