Western Energy Alliance hosted a livestream discussion with former United States Senator Cory Gardner to talk about the impacts President Biden’s ban on oil and natural gas leasing will have on public lands conservation funding.
Last year, Sen. Gardner co-authored and helped pass the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), which relies almost exclusively on royalties paid from oil and natural gas production on public lands and waters to fund $2.8 billion in conservation. The money reduces the National Park Service’s maintenance backlog, permanently funds the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and repairs infrastructure on other public lands. Because of a compromise forged by Sen. Gardner on competing public lands bills, GAOA was signed into law by President Trump last August.
The following are excerpts from the conversation with Sen. Gardner.
I never took a pure philosophy class in college, and I’ve always felt that to be a failing in the well-roundedness of my education. To compensate, I’ve done my own reading into some of the classics of philosophy, but feel that lack of training as my eyes glaze over a particularly dense metaphysical passage.
However, as a political science major, I’m right at home with political philosophy. It just seems more concrete and practical to me. When I see a particular concept become prominent in the political sphere, I’m curious about its origins and development. Such is the case with environmental justice, which is rooted firmly in the post-modernism in which philosophy is currently mired. There may be a masters thesis to be written about its philosophical origins, but I won’t be the one to do so. That doesn’t stop me from opining about it for a few paragraphs today.
Myth v. Reality: Leasing Talking Points
The Interior Department is holding a forum on how it will implement the Biden leasing ban. As I discussed last week, 7% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from the development and consumption of federal oil and natural gas does not equal “nearly a quarter.” Likewise, less than 4% of the federal mineral estate is not a “stockpile” of leases from rampant “fire sales.” Here are a few highlights.
Myth Number One: “Over the last few years the oil and gas industry has stockpiled millions of acres of leases on public lands and waters.”
Leased acreage is at a historic low while production has hit historic levels. From a high of over 120 million acres in 1985, leased acreage is down 78% to 26.6 million, up slightly from the all-time historic low during the Trump Administration of 25.5 million acres. By the end of the Trump Administration, leased acreage was down 41% from the Obama Administration’s high of 45.4 million. In fact, industry is more efficient, producing greater quantities of oil and natural gas from an ever-smaller portion of public lands.
Source: BLM Oil and Gas Statistics webpage.
Myth v. Reality on the Administration's Greenhouse Gas Claims: 0.6% Does Not Equal "Nearly a Quarter"
The Interior Department will be holding a forum on March 25th to “highlight perspectives” from various stakeholders on the president’s ban on oil and natural gas leasing. Hopefully the forum will shed light on what form the “comprehensive review” of the federal oil and natural gas program will entail. I anticipate it will be a multi-year environmental impact statement process that means that it is effectively a Biden leasing ban for most if not all of the first term.
I was struck that the new administration is parroting the talking points we’ve hear for a few years now from the environmental lobby about federal oil and natural gas greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. I figured it was past time to look into the main talking points.
Over the past month, multiple investigative reports and news stories have attacked Western Energy Alliance after we filed a lawsuit challenging President Biden’s ban on new oil and natural gas leases on public lands. The flurry of reports coming out and targeting us is no coincidence. Despite our high profile over several years, we’ve never seen this level of coordination to try to discredit our work in such a short time. These recent stories reveal the climate power players behind the attacks, the playbook of the environmental movement and media, and the billion-dollar philanthropies that finance it all.
Playbook in Action
The most recent news comes from The Guardian and Wyoming Public Media in a pair of news stories over the past week attacking the Alliance for promoting an academic study on the economic harm from Biden’s ban. Publicly available information reveals sources quoted in the stories are anti-oil and natural gas advocates and research cited in the articles was conducted by front groups that are funded by philanthropic foundations committed to advancing President Biden’s climate agenda.
Why is it that “balance” is one of those words that people use when they’re doing something undecidedly unbalanced? Such is the case with the president’s executive order banning oil and natural gas leasing on federal lands.
The fact sheet put out by the new administration led with it. President Biden is “upholding the commitment” to “restore balance”. But there’s been a balance on federal lands at least since the 1970s when Congress passed the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). The balance involves the multiple use of federal lands, which includes conservation as well as oil and natural gas and other productive uses. By banning leasing, President Biden has decidedly tipped the balance.
In the West, oil and natural gas resources are inextricably bound to federal public lands, and therefore, to the men and women of the industry who work there. Likewise, we are inextricably bound to the Department of the Interior, which oversees those public lands.
As such, we wish to work constructively with the department, and seek to find common ground whenever possible. But when the first action of the political staff of a new administration is to ban the very activity that we do, even temporarily, we cannot just sit idly by.
We know that the 60-day temporary ban announced by Acting Interior Secretary Scott de la Vega was just an initial step to a more permanent ban. And indeed, just one week later the president himself signed a ban on all new leasing into the indefinite future. Because we know that a “pause” on new leases to “launch a rigorous review of all leasing and permitting” (emphasis added) means a years-long ban on leasing that will last at least Biden’s entire term.
U.S. President Joe Biden is due to sign new executive orders today including cutting subsidies to fossil fuel companies. His critics warn it will cost jobs. With is Kathleen Sgamma, president of Western Energy Alliance, a body that represents oil and gas companies in the western states.
I don’t usually make general statements reacting to major events shaping the country and world, because there is plenty of coverage on them. We take positions on issues in our portfolio, as directed by our members, committees and boards, and I usually do not like to stray into larger issues that are outside those lanes. We stick to our issues on social media, and I personally limit engagement on most other issues because of my professional position and general intolerance for a medium that quickly devolves into people yelling past each other.
However, the events yesterday at the Capitol were so shocking that our policy engagement with and PAC support for the Trump Administration compels me to speak up. I am disgusted by the violence witnessed yesterday and President Trump’s role in spreading misinformation that incited it. I’m disgusted he discredited all the good work he did reorienting the judiciary back toward respect for the rule of law and constitution by dishonoring the vote of the People and the rulings of those very same judges on his numerous challenges. I’m disheartened he besmirched his smart, well-intentioned people in the agencies who did such good work on important policies that advance the crucial mission of making life-sustaining, affordable energy accessible to all Americans, no matter their race, gender, and political orientation.
The 2020 election proved nationally what we’ve known in the West about hydraulic fracturing: whenever it’s on the ballot there’s strong support in oil and natural gas country.
Over several election cycles we’ve seen fracking on local ballots either directly through initiatives (such as the failed Proposition 112 in Colorado) or indirectly through pro-oil and natural gas candidates. Each time fracking received strong support. The 2020 election was the first test nationally of that trend.
Vice President Joe Biden said he’d love to ban fracking nationwide in the primary but admitted it’s not possible. Instead he proposed a ban only on federal public lands. It was a calculated move because only about 10 percent of our nation’s oil and natural gas come from public lands. Plus, 95 percent of wells in the country are fracked so a nationwide ban would have been politically costly in must-win Pennsylvania.