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Cross-posted at: Unbossed. Many within the Bush Administration as well as the current congressional leadership are philosophically and ideologically opposed to the very idea of public lands.  As we've discussed a number of times in my previous posts, these Right-Wing idealougues are intent on destroying anything and  everything that had to do with the New Deal or the establishment of our public lands system (Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park  Service, etc.).

However, faced with the fact that our public lands are an incredibly popular part of the American quality of life,  these folks have had to resort to a decietful and  dishonest (yes...imagine...) way to divest the American public of their natural inheritance.

The energy crisis has given them an easy key to do their work.

As We've seen before ( Valle Vidal, Upper Green, Roan Plateau, Otero Mesa) the oil and gas industry is targeting some of our best-loved lands for industrialization - and for trivial amounts of gas.

Consider the situation in the Valle Vidal:

The United States in 2005 will consume about 24 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas, or about 66 billion cubic feet (Bcf) per day. Estimates of natural gas available from the Valle Vidal range from about 0.03 to 0.16 Tcf, or about 30 to 160 Bcf. These trivial amounts of natural gas represent roughly one-half to 2-1/2 day's supply of current USA natural gas demand, and would trickle slowly into supply lines over a period of 15 to 20 years. The quantities of gas available from the Valle Vidal will decline further as a percentage of USA gas demand as consumption increases steadily during the next two to three decades.  The situation is the same in the case of the other places I mentioned above.  So, why are they doing this?

Again, lets get back to the ideaological stance of the  Right-Wingers.  They do not believe in the very concept of public lands and many have overtly stated so.  What they want, is to get rid of public lands by selling them off to the highest bidder.  The  public wont stand for that.  Thus, they are using the energy crisis as a way to get rid of public lands.  What is happening now throughout the West is a modern-day form of 19th Century land speculation.  The Feds are selling leases to private companies at an incredible rate.  These leases would, in effect, put the  future of public lands in the hands of private industry for the next 100 years - at least.

On Wednesday, September 28, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will mark-up the so-called "National Energy Supply Diversification and Disruption Prevention Act," which was introduced by Chairman Richard Pombo on Monday.  With this act, the attack on our public lands becomes even more blatant:

"This month, Mother Nature proved just how vulnerable America is to supply disruptions," said Pombo, R-Calif. "We must do more to increase and to diversify domestic supplies."

It is pathetic that the twin tragedies of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita are being used as a pretext for the passage of the energy industry's legislative agenda to weaken our environmental laws and reduce the opportunities for Americans to participate in decisions affecting our publicly-owned natural resources. These laws currently provide a balance between development of our publicly-owned oil and gas resources, and the protection of our nation's air, lands, water, coasts, and wildlife.  Weakening them will not benefit energy consumers.  As has become an unfortunate practice in the Committee, no hearings will be held on this proposal before it is marked-up, though it contains a number of provisions that have not been considered by the Committee in the past.  

What would this bill do?

  • Require the Interior and Agriculture Secretaries to waive "any limitations on the timing of construction, drilling, or other operations related to any oil and gas lease or any pipeline right-of way..." administered by either Secretary, in the event there is a "significant disruption to the supply of oil and gas to the United States either from domestic or foreign sources..." Judicial review of such decisions is prohibited:

  • Prohibit administrative or judicial review of all Bureau of Land Management leasing decisions, regardless of their legality;

  • Legalize the use of industry paid consultants to review drilling permit applications on public lands (this is already occuring in Utah);

  • Expand scope of potential oil and gas industry exemptions from the National Environmental Policy Act included in Sec. 390 of the Energy Security Act to include most oil and gas leasing and development decisions on federal lands, thereby excluding the public and local and state governments from participating in key development decisions;

  • Provide "sufficiency language" for geothermal steam projects on National Forest System Lands; and

  • Waive the applicability of the National Historic Preservation Act consultation requirements for oil and gas activities on split-estate lands;

Further, the proposal from Pombo would authorize leasing and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  And it disposes of the Congressionally-authorized moratoria on leasing and development in the Outer Continental Shelf areas of the West and East coasts, including Florida.

It is worth noting - again - that most of the federal oil and gas resources on lands managed by the federal agencies in the Rocky Mountain West are already available for development, and are being aggressively exploited under current policies.   With 28,000 wells in Colorado alone, the industry - over a period of a decade and counting - is having no impact on prices or supply.  As the Denver Post pointed out yesterday:

The proposed legislation is unlikely to increase oil or gas supplies in the near future. Federal regulators are already approving oil and gas wells in Colorado and other Western states faster than industry can drill them.

The Bureau of Land Management, which controls much of the West's drilling land, approved more than 6,000 wells last year. Producers drilled fewer than 4,000.

The United States today possesses about 3 percent of the proved natural gas reserves of the world, and consumes about 24 percent of the world's gas production. We will not change these numbers now or ever by drilling all of the Rocky Mountain West.  Our gas supply  is so severely limited that we cannot count on this gas for our nation's current and future demands.  As Jerome has pointed out again and again (sorry, no link) much of our future supply of natural gas will actually be liquified natural gas (LNG) imported from abroad.

For example, Sempra Energy began building the first LNG terminal on the West Coast of North America this year. LNG for the terminal will be supplied by BP and Royal Dutch/Shell Group from Russia's Sakhalin Island and Indonesia. The facility will begin delivering as much as one billion cubic feet of gas per day to the western United States and northern Mexico in 2008.

What Congress really should do is begin to grapple with the fact that we need to wean our homes, industries, businesses, and transportation away from such high dependence on fossil fuels, and instead enact policies that will encourage the more efficient use of these dwindling resources, as well as encourage the development of new, clean technologies.  If enacted, the bill will not lower oil and gas prices to American consumers but there is little question that it will increase the already astounding profits of the oil and gas industry.

But that's not the point of the bill....the point is: they want, in part, to get rid of our public lands.

We should not be risking more damage to our nation's public lands and waters from oil and gas development in order to further pad their healthy profit margins.  And, above all, we should not allow this shame to continue.  If we do, our children will not have a Yellowstone, a Valle Vidal, an Arches National Mounument nor any other wild and scenic  lands to visit.

Originally posted to environmentalist on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 10:24 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The BLM employees say their new name (none)
    is "Bureau of Leasing and Mining." That's what they've been turned into under Bush -- a real estate office for the oil and gas industries.

    A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government - Edward Abbey

    by Naturegal on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 10:28:23 AM PDT

  •  If you don't believe the diarist... (4.00)
    get it from the horse's mouth:
    Vast government holdings drive up the cost of private property and encumber development necessary to meet the needs of rapidly expanding western communities.  Transferring these holdings to private landowners can often protect and enhance core values and encourage productive use of the land for economic gain.

    Principles of the Western Caucus
  •  Fabulous post, environmentalist ... (4.00)
    ...All the rightwingholes' whining about eco-rules hurting America's security by blocking energy exploration and exploitation is just another in their long line of BS.

    As Peter A. Morton of the Wilderness Society noted in congressional testimony two years ago:

    There are more than 94,000 producing wells on public land. Between 1997 and 2003, the oil and gas industry leased more than 37 million acres of federal minerals in the Rocky Mountains states -- and yet we still had two price spikes. The Administration's EPCA report, issued in January, found that over 90 percent of the natural gas resources in the Rockies are available for leasing and development.

    But 90% isn't enough for these guys. Gotta have it all. Even though they can't even keep up with drilling on more than a tiny fraction of the land they already have leased.

    The trouble we have with protecting public lands is the same trouble we have protecting our liberty. We have to be vigilant 365/24/7, and those who steal from us, land or liberty, only need for us to fall asleep briefly to make off with their loot.

    Thirty-one million new blogs are created each year. Try ours at The Next Hurrah.

    by Meteor Blades on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 10:38:21 AM PDT

  •  canary in the coal mine (4.00)
    <apologies for the bad pun>

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Environmentalist.

    The drilling situation in the West is frightening and hazardous to the health of its residents, to say the least. Lest one think that the drilling is limited to isolated areas:

    From Omega News:

    In late March, EnCana sued the small Colorado town of Firestone for trying to restrict gas well development in a residential area. In early April, a blowout at a natural gas well in the town of Carlsbad, New Mexico, forced the evacuation of nearly 1,200 residents for four days. Wastewater from coalbed methane development in Wyoming and Montana is fueling fears of a breakout of West Nile virus in that area. And in Wyoming's Green River basin, severe air pollution from a giant gas drilling operation has prompted the Department of Interior to consider closing a broad swath of public lands to public access.

    Until last spring, EnCana employees in Silt flew pirate flags atop many of the company's drilling rigs, but took them down when area residents complained that it only added to their sense of invasion.


    BOP News: Unbossed... is why blogs are a threat to top-down media.

    by em dash on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 10:48:26 AM PDT

    •  There has even (4.00)
      been talk of opening up a Colo Springs suburb to drilling.  Its amazing because, while there is a concerted effort to divest the public lands, there is also an amazingly ferocious move to gain control over private lands as well...as the quote from Omega points out.

      A real soldier died in his 8mpg Hummer so you could play soldier in yours.

      by environmentalist on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 10:50:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Bill # (none)
    Does anybody have an ide of the bill # or official title?  I want to send a pissy note to my rep.
  •  Overwhelmed by the amount of damage (none)
    that is still possible under the GWB regime in the next three years. AND it is irreversible damage.

    They are also licking their chops at the thought of destroying the Arctic Wilderness.

    This above all: to thine own self be true,... Thou canst not then be false to any man.-WS

    by Agathena on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 10:56:57 AM PDT

    •  Well, get this: (4.00)
      WASHINGTON, DC, September 21, 2005 (ENS) - The government of Canada is requesting that the U.S. Congress not use oil and gas shortages caused by Hurricane Katrina as a reason to approve drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. To allow drilling in the refuge would violate the 1987 Canada-United States Agreement on the Conservation of the Porcupine Caribou Herd, the Canadian foreign minister said in a letter to the U.S. elected leaders.

      In a September 15 letter to Congressional leaders, Canadian Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew said, "it has come to our attention that this disaster is being used by some to promote the development of petroleum resources in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, using energy security as their rationale."

      "The minimal oil resources in the Arctic Refuge will not make a timely or significant contribution to U.S. energy supplies," Pettigrew wrote. "Consequently, I would like to share with you Canada's longstanding concerns about oil drilling in the calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou Herd and to ask that you oppose any provision that would authorize such drilling."

      [snip]

      "As your friends and neighbours," the minister assured Lugar and Hyde that "Canada continues to provide all possible assistance and support for relief efforts."
      The Government of Canada is "particularly concerned," Pettigrew said, "about an expected provision in the Budget Reconciliation legislation to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic Refuge, because it would displace the Porcupine Caribou Herd which migrates annually across the Canada/U.S. border to calve in the protection of the coastal plain."

      "Drilling in these lands would have a devastating impact both on the Porcupine Caribou and on the Gwich'in First Nations people of the northern Yukon, the MacKenzie delta, and northeastern Alaska, who rely heavily on the herd for food and their 12,000 year old culture," the minister wrote.

      In accord with the 1987 Canada-United States Agreement on the Conservation of the Porcupine Caribou Herd, Pettigrew wrote, "Canada has protected its portion of the herd's habitat by providing permanent wilderness status through the establishment of Ivvavik and Vuntut National Parks in northern Yukon."

      [snip]

      "We urge the United States to provide permanent wilderness protection to the calving grounds consistent with the 1987 Canada-U.S. Agreement," the minister wrote.

      Pettigrew's letter is not the first time that Canada has made its concerns about drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge clear to the U.S. government.
      In July 2001, then Canadian Ambassor to the United States Michael Kergin wrote in an open letter to the U.S. Congress, "Both our countries share the responsibility to preserve the herd and its habitat, and we are both committed to do so as recognized in the 1987 Canada-United States Agreement on the Conservation of the Porcupine Caribou Herd."

      [snip]

      A vote on the Budget Reconciliation legislation could happen before the end of September.

      A real soldier died in his 8mpg Hummer so you could play soldier in yours.

      by environmentalist on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 11:08:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for that enviro. & thanks to Canada! (none)

        Do you think Canada has more clout because of our oil  production and potential in the tar sands? Cheney was about to visit us drooling over our oil when he cancelled. Either his heart or the heat from his lack of response to Katrina made him forego the visit.

        This above all: to thine own self be true,... Thou canst not then be false to any man.-WS

        by Agathena on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 03:16:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  As Tom DeLay said (none)
    "It's not about drilling the Refuge, it's about being able to drill anywhere."

    And that's what it's about -- if they can get into the Arctic Refuge, no place is off limits.

    A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government - Edward Abbey

    by Naturegal on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 11:08:22 AM PDT

  •  Privatization is also being used to attack parks (none)
    FYI:

    The National Park Service was concerned that complying with federal requirements to determine which jobs should be contracted out would cost $3,000 for each full-time equivalent job. To cover this cost, the Park Service estimated that it would have to cut visitor services and seasonal operations. Another cost was the potential loss of diversity in the workforce. Park Service May Cut Operations to Fund Outsourcing Plan, Director Says in Memo, 41 GOV'T EMPL. REL. REP. (BNA) 447 (Apr. 29, 2003). Other agencies have raised this concern. See generally U.S. GEN. ACCT. OFF., COMPETITIVE SOURCING: GREATER EMPHASIS IS NEEDED ON INCREASING EFFICIENCY AND IMPROVING PERFORMANCE, GAO-04-367 (Feb. 2004), at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d04367.pdf (describing the challenges various federal agencies face in implementing competitive sourcing, including lack of staff and funding)

    and

    On April 4, 2003, National Park Service Director Fran Mainella, stated that the National Park Service would have to reduce visitor services and make other cutbacks in order to meet the Bush administration's goals for holding public-private competitions for federal jobs. The jobs to be contracted out included maintenance and administrative positions, and hundreds of archaeologists, biologists, and historians.  Two thousand jobs were potentially involved, but the workers currently holding them had no standing to challenge the decision under the reasoning of Jones v. United States. The decision also might affect Park Service efforts to ethnically diversify its workforce  and may lessen park visitors' quality of experience in the absence of the park archaeologists, biologists, and historians. But under the straitened interpretation given to standing, neither the incumbent employees, their union, those wanting to prevent lost workforce diversity, nor past or potential future visitors would have standing to challenge the decision. Who then can enforce accountability?

    unbossed investigative blogging

    by shirah on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 02:13:49 PM PDT

    •  Thank you for that info. (none)
      I hadnt seen it.  Fuel to the fire.

      I think Halcyon hit it on the head in the comment below when he said that our leaders want our nation to return to the Gilded Age.  Indeed.  I think that is right on.  The day of the oil barons, child labor, rape and pillage of the land and endless labor wars.  Great.

      A real soldier died in his 8mpg Hummer so you could play soldier in yours.

      by environmentalist on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 02:31:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks, let us know when there's a bill # (none)
    and when it's time to write our reps.

    Thought you might be interested, if you don't already know, that Teddy Roosevelt created the 'Bureau of Investigation', precursor to the FBI, in 1908 to investigate a corrupt public land scheme in Idaho. I forget the details, but it parallels closely what the CATO paper outlines. The story is told in great detail in Broken: The Troubled Past and Uncertain Future of the FBI by Richard Gid Powers. Our current masters truly seek a return to the 'Gilded Age'.

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