Secessionism on the left.Feb 23, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 23 • By JOSEPH BOTTUM
Rivers have rights, they say down in Mora County, New Mexico—“inalienable and fundamental rights,” beyond the power of any government to touch. Aquifers, too. Wetlands, streams, ecosystems, and even “natural communities,” whatever that undefined term means: All of them have rights to “exist and flourish.” The land itself has an “intrinsic right” to “exist without defilement.”
It’s all written down in County Ordinance 2013-01. Mora is a “multi-cultural community with indigenous roots of Many,” the ordinance explains. And thanks to three foundational documents—the 1776 Declaration of Independence, the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and the 1994 Mora County Comprehensive Land Use Plan—everybody and everything in Mora has got rights. Everybody and everything, that is, except the United States government, the New Mexico State government, oil and gas drillers, corporations, and anyone who disagrees with Ordinance 2013-01. They don’t have any rights at all.
Seriously. The ordinance openly names the First and Fifth Amendments when it strips corporations of rights. No freedom of speech or power to petition the government for a corporation, no access to a trial or due process of law. In fact, when the topic is oil and gas, even individual citizens lack rights to sue and have legal judgments enforced—because, in a nice bit of circularity, the very act of suing or trying to enforce a judgment is a crime. Drilling for oil is illegal in Mora County, and so is “seeking to engage in activities prohibited by this ordinance,” which includes filing a lawsuit challenging the ordinance.
Still, none of that can top the truly amazing part of County Ordinance 2013-01. Yes, the preamble and early sections are goo of a high order. The concept of rights is somehow capacious enough that—in a line wondrous in its cluelessness—“ecosystems in Mora County possess a right to a sustainable energy future,” even while the ordinance denounces the extension of the concept to include corporations. And yes, the notion that Mora has the power to ignore “any state or federal agency,” including the U.S. Supreme Court, is something of an overreach.
But the most fascinating moment in the ordinance comes in Section 11, where Mora County, New Mexico—with just under 5,000 people scattered across almost 2,000 square miles northeast of Santa Fe—threatens to secede from the United States if its anti-oil ordinance is attacked or the state and federal governments attempt “to intimidate the people of Mora County or their elected officials.” They’re talking civil war in Mora. They’ve passed a county ordinance that explicitly contemplates taking “actions to separate the County from the other levels of government.”
This January, a year after SWEPI (a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell) challenged the ordinance in federal court, District Judge James O. Browning issued a 199-page order striking down the law in its entirety. No oil and gas drilling is actually taking place in the county—and thus none of the fracking the ordinance particularly denounces—but a handful of minor extraction leases do exist. And on the basis of those leases, Browning decided that SWEPI had standing to sue. Its takings and due-process claims were not ripe for federal adjudication, he concluded, but on the rest of the oil company’s constitutional claims, Browning systematically dismantled the county’s arguments.
“Certain provisions of the Ordinance blatantly contradict federal law,” the decision notes. Indeed, if Mora’s claims were upheld, “it would signal the end of all civil rights that the Constitution protects. A county could pass an unconstitutional ordinance, but then say that anyone who challenged the ordinance lacks constitutional rights to support the challenge. The county could enforce its unconstitutional ordinance free of constitutional restrictions, because no one could challenge the validity of the ordinance. The consequences of such an outcome could be devastating to the Union as the Nation has known it since the Civil War.”
That mention of the Civil War is as close as Judge Browning comes to acknowledging the secessionism in Mora County Ordinance 2013-01. The trouble all started when a local anti-drilling activist named Kathleen Dudley caught the ear of John Olivas, chairman of Mora’s three-member county commission. Together, they searched for information on how to ban fracking—the kind of thing recently attempted, more or less successfully, in Denton, Texas, Boulder, Colorado, and Dryden, New York. Unfortunately, what they found was the name of Thomas Linzey, cofounder of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund of Mercersburg, Pennsylvania.
Time to counter the Saudis with a tariff? Feb 16, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 22 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
We are in a war with Saudi Arabia—and losing. The Saudis aim to regain substantial control of our oil supply by driving from the industry many of our shale-oil-producing frackers who have reduced the power conveyed to the kingdom’s rulers by the underground ocean of oil on which their palaces sit. And we seem prepared to let them do just that, by failing to do what is necessary to prevent a reversal of the major strides we have made to get out from under the boot of an avaricious oil cartel.
The politics of oil Feb 16, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 22 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
"We can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices.” As recently as two years ago, that’s what the president was saying—with his usual self-assurance—about the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and on oil in general. And he wasn’t the only one. The line was widely echoed on the political left, where the instinctive feeling is that petroleum is poison. It helped that the opposition, led by archvillainess Sarah Palin, was meanwhile chanting, “Drill, baby, drill.”
What more proof was needed?
Let’s stop fattening the wallets of our enemies.Oct 27, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 07 • By CHARLES WOLF JR.
Many of the world’s most serious security threats are enabled—directly or indirectly—by revenues from the high oil prices (about $100 per barrel) prevalent in world markets in recent years. If these prices were reduced substantially (e.g., by 20-30 percent), the liquidity that fuels the threats would probably shrink, as would the threats themselves.
12:00 AM, Oct 11, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Anyone who doubts that the deployment of the technologies we have come to call fracking constitutes a revolution should consider this. U.S. oil production has soared by 70 percent in the past six years. American refineries have cut in half their imports from the OPEC cartel, setting off a scramble by those countries to find new markets.
3:01 PM, Jun 30, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
A new poll finds Colorado Republican Cory Gardner neck and neck with the Democratic senator Mark Udall in what's become one of the hottest Senate races of the midterm elections. Rasmussen Reports finds Udall with 43 percent support and Gardner, a two-term congressman, with 42 percent support, a virtual tie between the candidates.
12:00 AM, Jun 21, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
And we thought the bad old days of oil shocks were over. Embargoes, price spikes, gasoline lines in America, a sweater-bedecked president ordering the end of hot water in many facilities, collapsing retail sales as high gasoline and energy prices hit stores as much as a big tax increase would, economic stagflation, or worse. Well, it just might be that we were wrong to believe that danger to our continued prosperity has been removed with the death of theories about “Peak oil.”
And the benefits.12:00 AM, May 24, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
The fracking euphoria had to end. For three reasons. First, the claims for its benefits were wildly exaggerated, ensuring eventual disappointment as even a cheerful reality could not meet the imaginings of the pro-fossil-fuel gang. Second, environmental groups were not going to sit idly by, their formidable political weapons holstered, while fossil fuels received a new lease on life in America.
11:43 AM, May 9, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Beverly Hills has banned fracking. Which makes it "the first municipality in California to prohibit the controversial technique for extracting natural gas and oil from underground rock deposits," according to Reuters.
12:00 AM, Mar 29, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
America is a fracking cornucopia of crude oil, independent of the rapacious OPEC cartel. And has an inexhaustible supply of natural gas, putting us in a position to become a major exporter able to use its gas reserves as a geopolitical weapon. Take that, King Abdullah and Vladimir Putin. Too good to be true? You bet.
2:06 PM, Feb 14, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
The highest rents in the country aren't in major metropolises like New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago--they're in Williston, North Dakota. Business Insider reports that the highest average monthly rents for entry-level, one-bedroom apartments can be found in Williston, a small town in northwestern North Dakota that's the central city in the state's oil boom of recent years.
12:00 AM, Jan 25, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
There is something about the energy business that is conducive to the creation of myths. So Roger Sant, a long-time and highly respected participant in the energy policy game and in the industries that energy legislation and regulation affect, told a group of Houston oil men recently. Energy myths do die, but only to be replaced by new ones.
Starting over in North Dakota.Sep 30, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 04 • By MICHAEL WARREN
In O. E. Rølvaag’s Giants in the Earth, homesteader Per Hansa and his family depart from the safety of their Norwegian immigrant community in Minnesota for the open land of the Dakota Territory. This is something Americans have done for hundreds of years—leave home for the chance to start anew. Today, the frontier isn’t far from where the homesteaders of the 19th century settled. North Dakota (unemployment rate 3.2 percent and falling) is a place where plenty of Americans are finding their second chance.