View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Enviros Aren't the Little Guys 

The AP is reporting that the administration is seeking industry help in battling environmetalists' lawsuits concerning oil and gas exploration.

About 7,100 cases are being litigated by the department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, said Thomas Sansonetti, an assistant attorney general of the Justice Department.

More than two-thirds of the cases originated west of the Mississippi River, most of them in the Rockies.

"When these lawsuits come up, when they sue the federal agencies like EPA or BLM, intervene if possible," Sansonetti told executives at the Independent Petroleum Association of America conference Monday. "The fact is, we need help. Sometimes, two or three of our attorneys are matched up against entire law firms."

The environmentalist lobby isn't the Little Guy anymore, and hasn't been for quite some time. No more than labor was the Little Guy before, oh, the PATCO strike (throat clearing). These organizations have billions of dollars behind them, the pro bono time of some large law firms, and the image of working for the public against the Big Corporations.

That said, it's a little disconcerting to see the government asking industry for help like this. It frames the issue in exactly the way the environmentalist lobby wants it framed. How much more effective would it be to go to the unions, explain that jobs were at risk, and ask for their help, too? Not only would it give the effort a more populist cast, it would also be politically smart, splitting two key Democratic constituencies.

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