Energy Infrastructure Opposition Tactics Reach New Venue: the Federal Budget

There is no shortage of creativity among pipeline and energy infrastructure opponents seeking to develop new, legally untested means to slow or shutter energy infrastructure build out. It should surprise few that the latest bold attempt comes courtesy of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

As reported by The Hill, AOC slipped language through a proposed amendment into the federal budget that would restrict the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from using “the discharge of dredged or fill material resulting from an activity to construct a pipeline for the transportation of oil or gas.” Convenient. The Huffington Post suggested that this could keep the Corps from repairing or working on as many as 8,000 pipelines in the country.

Circumvention, rather than counter-proposals or debate, has become the de facto brand of politics for pipeline opponents. AOC’s latest attempt just seems to be the next progression in that trend, which is surprising given the recent successes environmentalists have celebrated in the courts.

There are undoubtedly questions of constitutionality in play here as one can see plainly that AOC’s amendment has nothing to do with appropriations. But it is a wonder that she and other Green New Deal compatriots didn’t try to pull the strings of the federal purse and squeeze the Army Corps of Engineers financially, not to give away ideas.

Further, this reeks of regulatory interference and would certainly hinder the ability of the Corps to properly do its job, which has helped lead the United States to a position of global energy hegemony.

The country stands to benefit from a robust and spirited debate about energy infrastructure but moves like these needlessly politicize regulators that have served supporters and opponents of pipelines well for decades. Regulators, as with the courts, are intentionally nonpolitical bodies and pulling them into the gridlock of Congress comes at the expense of every American.