Judge Overlooks Constitution, Reinstates Obama-Era Coal Mining Ban On 'Federal Lands'

P. Gardner Goldsmith | August 16, 2022
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Fox News’ Landon Milon reports that a federal District Judge reinstated an Obama edict on Friday that will halt most current coal mining on federal lands until federal bureaucrats grant “permission.”

This closes the window on freer activity former President Donald Trump allowed when he revoked the Obama ban, and now puts in jeopardy nearly half of the US coal production index. And, of course, the rationale is that coal is a feeder for that unchallengeable collectivist bogeyman, “anthropogenic climate change.”

Friday's ruling from U.S. District Judge Brian Morris requires government officials to conduct a new environmental review prior to resuming coal sales from federal lands. The judge said the government's previous review of the program during the Trump administration had not adequately considered the climate damage from coal's greenhouse gas emissions, among other effects.

Since the data on which such considerations would be based are not only constantly fluctuating, but are, themselves, tied into a “man is making the planet dangerously warm” premise that is not proven at all, there’s a first-blush problem there.

And, on deeper analysis, more fundamental constitutional and common law problems arise.

Almost half the nation’s annual coal production is mined by private companies from leases on federal land, mainly in Western states, including Wyoming, Montana and Colorado.

Which offers us a moment of reflection on Judge Morris, who in 2013 was recommended for his U.S. District Court of Montana position by hardcore leftist Democrat Senator Max Baucus (also from Montana), and his utter disregard for the very set of rules he, Baucus, and all the others in federal employ swear to abide, or have sworn to abide.

The U.S. Constitution does not allow federal control over those lands on which Morris just ruled. According to the document that gives Morris his jurisprudential job, the U.S. government can own/control only three types of geography: Washington D.C., U.S. territories, and garrisons for soldiers.

That’s it.

So, Judge Morris could have saved himself time, saved the folks in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, and other states vexation, and saved us money on our electric bills and many other bills if he had bothered to abide by the document that he swore to protect and defend.

I don’t live in any of those states. I likely never will walk on any of those lands. The decisions about those stretches of property are supposed to be up to the people of those states, and, preferably, left up to the give and take of private property purchase, property claims, market preferences, and potential liability.

And when it comes to liability, that give-and-take is supposed to be based on tort law, which, itself, is based on British Common Law, wherein an aggrieved party must show HARM before being allowed to argue his or her case before a jury.

Government is not a person, and cannot claim “harm,” making illegitimate all preemptive government barriers to private activity based on a state predicate of assumed “general harm.”

Related: Obama-Appointed Judge Blocks New Oil Drills on Fed Land To Battle 'Climate Change'

That, of course, affords a charitable take on the unfounded and reckless claims of “enviro-apocalypse” used as the bases for these kinds of energy-supply restrictions.

If Judge Morris were to offer a scintilla of respect for the U.S. Constitution, he would have ruled that the U.S. government has no place in controlling those lands, and no place deciding whether or how they might be leased to coal miners, loggers, or anyone. And if Judge Morris were to offer even the faintest hint of a nod to Tort Law as practiced in the Western Tradition, he would block preemptive government “regulatory restrictions” on private affairs and allow damage claims to be brought up and proven in court.

And there, the “anthropogenic climate change” debate could be argued before a jury – as long as judges could be trusted to allow the evidence to go before the members of said jury or juries.

This move reminds us of how greatly the current federal government system deviates from the original plan of those who created it – and paints a stark picture of the minds of those behind this long-effected deviation.

There no longer is a constitutional standard, there no longer is a Common Law standard. There no longer is a standard of truth in scientific inquiry.

There IS power, sheer, raw, power, over the lives, livelihoods, and dreams, of others.

As Milon notes:

According to government data, the coal program raked in about $400 million to federal and state coffers through royalties and other payments last year.

So, like mafia dons and feudal lords, politicians and bureaucrats claim the ownership of these lands, then rake in the cash, even while hawking to us the absurd line - “these lands are YOURS, as Americans!”

All that does is get us arguing with each other about how the lands should be used.

We never will know how people want the lands utilized until they are freed from government control and allowed to show their use or non-use value in the private market. Only then can liability be shown, as well.

Right now, it’s collectivized and made a hot potato. Milon observes that, “National Mining Association President Rich Nolan said the industry lobbying group would appeal the ruling.”

And, says Nolan:

"Denying access to affordable, secure energy during an energy affordability crisis is deeply troubling."

Indeed.

Some might argue that the coal industry gets an easy, below-market deal when renting and mining on “federal lands.” Others might argue that this work is essential, and that the Climate Cult is dead set on pushing coal, oil, and natural gas prices so high, other, far less efficient forms of energy supply (wind, solar) become a bit more attractive.

But the only way to know is if a free market is allowed, and in order to reopen the window to the market, the first step is to reveal the utter foolishness of rulings such as this, which do not free-up these federally-occupied lands, do not follow the rules of the U.S. Constitution, and do nothing but perpetuate baseless and evidence-empty Climate Cult fear-mongering.

It's a learning moment, if we can see it.

 

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