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Obama's Secretive Keystone XL Decision

The oppressive monster known as the Environmental Protection Agency is not just killing jobs these days -- it is intentionally avoiding transparency that may shed light on the political motivations behind the agency's actions.
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The oppressive monster known as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not just killing jobs these days -- it is intentionally avoiding transparency that may shed light on the political motivations behind the agency's actions.

Started in 1970 by President Richard Nixon, the EPA was a small agency that combined several anti-pollution and clean water agencies into one agency with 4,084 employees and a $1 billion budget. Today, it has 17,000 employees and has evolved from its narrow focus into an unconstitutional, blunt instrument with vast powers that the Obama Administration wields to promote a radical political agenda that is destroying prosperity and ruining lives.

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court decided unanimously in Sackett v. EPA against the agency. The Sacketts, a young married couple in Idaho, started building their dream home in 2005 but fell victim to an EPA compliance order that charged them with putting fill material onto a wetlands on their property.

When the Sacketts tried to appeal the EPA's decision, they were told that there was no appeals process unless the agency intended to file an enforcement action that would include significant civil and criminal penalties. While two lower courts ruled in favor of the EPA, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously for the Sacketts, declaring that decisions made under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act were subject to an appeal.

While that battle was won, the EPA's war on the free market and economic prosperity continues. Even though Congress did not pass legislation to limit carbon emissions or create a "cap and trade" scheme, the EPA has developed burdensome and often contradictory regulations specially designed to harm the same petroleum refining industry America must depend on for any semblance of energy independence.

EPA's politically motivated regulations aimed at the oil industry also hurt consumers. Just this week, the National Automobile Dealers Association released a study showing that EPA's new fuel economy standards will make cars so much more expensive that some 7 million working families and college students will not be able to afford them.

But perhaps most egregiously, EPA overreach was a major factor in why no decision on the Keystone XL pipeline will be made until after the 2012 elections. If approved, the pipeline would create tens of thousands of jobs while providing Americans access to as much as 800,000 barrels of Canadian oil for U.S. markets.

To find out what was going on behind the scenes in the Keystone XL decision, the Institute for Energy Research (IER) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to Obama's State Department and EPA. The goal was to understand if politics and special interest group pressure entered into the decision to delay the pipeline.

But while extreme environmental groups like Friends of the Earth, which opposes the pipeline, had no problem receiving similar information after its FOIA request, IER's request has been delayed. After four months and multiple submissions, the Obama administration has refused to comply, violating FOIA standards. The decision to delay the Keystone Pipeline was clearly so politicized that the agencies involved are willing break the law to cover their tracks. This can hardly be the transparent government that the president promised us when he ran for president in 2008.

EPA overreach, including that on the Keystone Pipeline, destroys the jobs that workers need to pay for the higher gas prices for which EPA is largely responsible. Everyone is in favor of cleaner air and a better environment, but EPA makes no attempt to strike a balance between economic opportunity and environmental gains.

Through greenhouse gas rules, unrealistic fuel economy standards, and now its opposition to Keystone, EPA seems hellbent on making oil -- the energy that powers our economy -- a fuel of the past. Right now, that philosophy is hitting Americans right in the wallet.

It is time to limit the tyrannical, unelected, and hyper-political bureaucracy. That starts with exposing the politics behind the EPA's Keystone XL position.

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Ken Blackwell, a fellow at the Family Research Council, is on the board of directors of the Club For Growth.

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