When looking at any sign advertising the price of gasoline or diesel fuel, the effect of the Obama administration’s drilling ban in the Gulf of Mexico could not be clearer. And the full scope of the troubles wrought by this ban encompasses more than higher fuel costs alone.

Many seem to think that Louisiana and the other Gulf states are completely at the mercy of the federal government vis-à-vis offshore drilling. However, if Louisiana and her sister states are willing to study history and to show a modicum of courage and independence, there are steps that can be taken to mend what the federal government hath made ill.

The first step is recognising the fundamental characteristics of our polity. The United States are not, and were never intended to be, a centralised, homogeneous nation with an all-powerful federal government directing all aspects of the citizens’ lives, whether moral, political, or economic. No, the genius of our Union is the division of power between federal, state, and local governments; and the limited nature of government at each of these levels.

This historical truth carries profound implications – first and foremost being this declaration of Thomas Jefferson’s from the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798: ‘…the several States composing the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their General [i.e., federal] Government’. The federal government, itself a creation of the states, is instead constrained by the U.S. Constitution (USC), he continues, which grants the federal government only limited powers to carry out those few tasks given to it in the USC.

Should this agent of the states attempt to exercise powers not granted to it, or to utilise those that are granted for purposes not included in the charter, then those federal actions are ‘unauthoritative, void, and of no force’, according to Jefferson, and are to be resisted by the state governments and other institutions the citizens of the states have seen fit to establish.

These state and local checks quite effectively kept the federal government from exceeding its legitimate powers during the years of the early American Republic, but this salutary system was overturned with the onset of the War between the States. Now that we are beginning to recover from our ‘re-founding’ at the hands of Pres. Lincoln and those likeminded centralisers who followed him, nullification is once again being practised in states all across the Union on laws ranging from Obamacare to the requirement of a national ID card.

The revival of this safeguard – whether called nullification, veto, interposition, etc. – comes at a critical time. The federal government has for years claimed the right to regulate drilling off the coast of Louisiana and other states bordering seas and oceans, even though such a power is not granted to the federal government in the USC; nor does such mining within the territory of a state constitute ‘interstate commerce’ that could be regulated by the federal government under Article I, Section 8, Clause 3, of the USC.

Because Louisiana has acquiesced in these baseless federal claims and the resultant federal permitting scheme, thousands here have lost their jobs; drilling companies and associated businesses are losing massive amounts of money (and in some cases going bankrupt); and fuel prices have risen dramatically.

This, then, is the time for Louisiana’s state and local governments, and other public or private institutions, to seek justice for their fellow citizens, to perform their duty to uphold the USC and Louisiana’s own Constitution, by nullifying the federal permitting process in favour of permitting by state or local agencies.

To this end, the Louisiana State Sovereignty Committee (LSSC) has drafted model legislation, the Freedom to Drill Act; it is available for viewing at lassc.wordpress.com . I encourage everyone to contact the governor, your state legislators, and your local parish and city officials and ask them to back the Freedom to Drill Act or something substantially similar. Contact information for state officials is available at the LSSC web site.

Gov. Jindal and many others around the state, from both public and private sectors, have so far been content simply to complain about the drilling ban or to beg the federal government to change its behavior, displaying an unseemly devotion to the cult of federal power and its corollary, apathy toward or disdain for local authority and decision-making. But sniveling and groveling will not revive the drilling industry: Only action will do that. And the correct action in this situation, the ‘rightful remedy’ according to Jefferson, Madison, et al., is nullification.

Walt Garlington
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