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.
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:
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;
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 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.