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.
A year and a half after the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis was formed in the U.S. House, the Democratic majority’s climate policy roadmap has been released. Solving the Climate Crisis is a wide-ranging and detailed report that targets oil and natural gas as well as almost every other industry.
The committee’s formation attracted considerable media attention as a major step taken by the incoming majority following the 2018 midterm landslide. Interest was also fueled around the exclusion of freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from the committee following her election as a prominent climate champion and co-author of the Green New Deal (GND).
Last week, the Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act. Western Energy Alliance has been actively supporting the provisions of the bill that would take revenue from oil and natural gas production on public lands, and direct it into national parks.
We conducted a #ParksinWreck campaign to highlight the $12 billion funding shortfall in our beloved national parks, and how the parks suffer from crumbling roads, dilapidated visitors’ centers, and eroding trails. We raised money for Friends of Arches and Canyonlands Park as a way to raise awareness of the need to reduce the maintenance backlog in the parks.
We knew something was going on when we started getting press inquiries two months before the lease list for the September Utah lease sale was even released. It was a sure sign that a narrative was being developed by environmental Keep-It-in-the-Ground groups that was being lapped up by the media.
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) generated a map with nominated parcels and started making the rounds with the Washington Post and Bloomberg. As usual, environmental groups are insinuating that there should not be leasing “near” national parks. It’s a consistent effort to assert a buffer around national parks, but of course, “near” can mean anything. We’ve seen groups complain about leases 50 miles from park boundaries because that’s too near. But even a quick look at this map shows that most leases are several miles away from park boundaries.