Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Public Land

Another missive from Ned.

The Senate (http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/322800-senate-passes-bill-ending-obama-era-land-rule) and the House have now voted down a rule that required a more thorough, transparent planning process for activities on public lands - about 250 million acres (not Parks or Wildlife Refuges) managed by the Bureau of Land Management, mostly in the West.  The rule was adopted by the Obama Administration in December - too late, making it vulnerable to rescission under the terms of the Congressional Review Act.  Hunting and fishing groups were offended (see the reaction of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership at http://www.trcp.org/2017/02/07/house-votes-eviscerate-rule-giving-sportsmen-say-public-land-use-2/) because in some key places there are big conflicts between the roads, pipelines, and wellheads required for oil and gas development and maintenance of critical wildlife habitat, particularly migratory species such as antelope and mule deer.  And please be aware of the irony here: elimination of a rule hailed by the TRCP is one of the first actions of the Congress that the new Interior Secretary just departed, calling himself a Teddy Roosevelt fan at his confirmation hearings in the Senate...

The oil industry pushed hard against this rule, and pushed hard for its repeal. Senator Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska senator who chairs the Senate Energy Committee, said the rule had obscured planning, which sounds a tad Orwellian.  Having been very deep in the development of this rule and its antecedents, and observed the conflicts that made it necessary, I weep (well, figuratively) for our public lands and wildlife.  We are definitely going back in time - back to a time when some field offices, heavily pressured and influenced by oil industry landmen, moved permits through with inadequate attention to sensitive resources from cultural and archaeological to buffers near national parks, water sources, and wildlife areas. 

The U.S. has been producing oil and gas at historic levels.  Can't the industry take its boot off the neck of our public lands and allow a slightly more careful, inclusive, informed process for development on the public estate?  Instead the industry's concerted opposition to this rule and others represents a no-holds-barred, give-no-quarter approach to energy policy.  Same as with methane management, same as with offshore leasing, same as with opposition to even the most basic rules governing hydraulic fracturing.  This week, as Cambridge Energy Research Associates holds its annual "Energy Week" in Houston (about 75% oil and gas, with speakers from industry and the Trump Administration - see https://ceraweek.com/agenda/ ), the dominance of the oil and gas industry has never felt more obvious.  A few leaders deserve credit for supporting the Paris climate agreement - although, since it will never be implemented or endorsed by our current EPA or Congress, it could be seen as a ploy to give even more comparative freedom to the industry on the ground in the United States.

Please be in touch with friends in red and purple states to make them aware, get them involved, and prepare for the 2018 elections.


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