This month, Robert E. Hogfoss and Catherine D. Little published a piece in the National Law Journal explaining that: “… permits are a creation of the executive branch alone, with no legislative authorization and limited judicial review to date. Presidential permits are intended to provide executive branch review of trans-border facilities and commercial activities between the United States and either Canada or Mexico. No statute authorizes their creation or use, and few regulations govern their review or issuance.”
In other words, there is no hard constitutional or statutory basis for presidential permits. The President really has no business controlling or blocking free enterprise in America or the development of America’s natural resources. But, U.S. Presidents have become quite savvy at finding legitimate-sounding ways to grant themselves whatever power the Constitution does not give them.
President Roosevelt was the first U.S. President to use his executive authority to claim that Congress would need a so-called “presidential permit” in order to approve trans-border natural gas or electric operations. And the rest is history. President Obama now appears to be contemplating using a “presidential permit” to stall Keystone XL.
I recently asked Canadian writer Alex Snyder to give me his take on Keystone XL:
“Canada relies on America for 97 percent of its energy exports, so to say this deal is important for our country would be accurate. The main environmental concerns from certain groups in America is the fact that there is a risk of an oil spill… First, there's risk of a spill in any oil transportation method, so the argument is invalid. Second, tar sands are becoming more environmentally friendly due to stricter environmental regulations from the Canadian government. American environmental groups show little understanding of Canadian politics when they question production methods. Additionally, most companies in the oil sands are continually improving extraction methods to limit their environmental impact, and have incentive to do so. No oil company enjoys the negative publicity that arises from environmental carnage. …Canadians realize Keystone XL… should be approved; it’s just embarrassing that it’s being held up by environmental fanatics.”
The bottom line is that we risk jeopardizing our relationship with Canada and losing economic growth opportunity out of false fears of environmental repercussions. Let’s stop pampering the greenies and build Keystone XL.