Activists’ Legal Gamesmanship Threatens American Energy Security

In recent months, environmental activists have led a number of high profile legal campaigns against American energy infrastructure projects. Emboldened by successes, including the cancellation of a New Hampshire pipeline, they have expanded efforts to block new projects by manipulating permitting and legal processes to attain their desired political outcome. In an op-ed published in The Hill, former Pentagon official Steven Bucci describes the danger that their bad-faith litigation poses to the country.

Environmental activist groups like the Sierra Club and the National Resource Defense Council frequently support anti-infrastructure lawsuits under the pretense of redressing regulatory shortcomings. In reality, their cases have little to do with ensuring accountability and oversight, and everything to do with crippling a crucial sector of the national economy in the name of environmentalism. With regards to the Keystone XL Pipeline, Bucci writes that:

“Litigation by environmental groups seemingly had little to do with a better process and everything to do with legal jujitsu. They no doubt saw the interagency tensions as an opportunity in their longstanding strategy to stop fossil fuels from being extracted, transported and even used at all.”

Besides undermining the intended purpose of the courts by using litigation as a vehicle to inflict costs and delays on energy companies, these organizations are actively eroding America’s energy independence and national security, while actually contributing to an increase in global carbon emissions.

The existence of pipelines has no bearing on the nation’s need for reliable and affordable energy. Rather than reducing that need, preventing infrastructure projects only forces the country to import its energy. Bucci explains that:

“With demand for oil and natural gas not weakening any time soon, efforts to thwart domestic production and block key transportation infrastructure will not diminish our use of these fuels but, instead, will simply increase dependence on foreign sources like oil from the Middle East and gas from Russia.”

Besides empowering countries that have historically manipulated energy prices to the detriment of our national security, these lawsuits inadvertently increase global carbon emissions by giving other energy producing countries with far less regulations a competitive advantage – as well as forcing American energy producers to transport natural gas and oil via truck and train in the absence of pipelines, both of which are less safe and less environmentally-conscious. In this way, organizations like the Sierra Club are undermining their own purported objectives.

All of this is made worse by the fact that activists have taken advantage of a moment of national economic vulnerability to force energy infrastructure companies to capitulate when they are at their weakest, without regard for their importance to economic recovery and contribution to past and future prosperity. At a time when the country is still reeling from a global pandemic, misguided and manipulative efforts to shut down infrastructure projects are a danger that our companies, their employees, and our country can’t afford.

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