Candidates’ Positions on Public Lands

by Aaron Johnson, Manager of Communications on February 23, 2016 - 3:31pm

Today, Nevada voters hold their presidential primary for the Republican Party, and last weekend was the Democrats’ turn. Nevada is unique among the early primary states because it’s a western state and, therefore, has significant public lands. More than 80% of Nevada is owned by the federal government. As a result, the candidates have begun addressing issues of access, development and the transfer of public lands.

We compiled a brief list of recent statements as well as legislative and voting records of most candidates, where applicable. I hope you will take a close look at their position and policy plans.

Federal Lands Map

  • Hillary Clinton said a moratorium on oil and natural gas leases on public lands was a “done deal” when an environmental activist asked her stance on Keep It in the Ground. The short discussion was captured on video tape. These are similar to comments she made in 2015.
  • Bernie Sanders introduced the Keep It in the Ground Act in the Senate last month. In a video posted to his campaign website, Sanders says he’ll stand up to oil companies and his Administration will work to aggressively move away from fossil fuels.
  • Donald Trump believes there should be no oil and natural gas production on federal lands, and that only the federal government, not states, knows how to protect lands. In an interview with Field & Stream, he said, “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do.” As someone who’s not been previously elected, there is legislative record providing additional insight beyond his statements to media.
  • Ted Cruz is the most outspoken candidate supportive of transferring control of public lands to the states. Last week he began airing TV ads in Nevada responding to Trump’s comments, saying the people should be in control and not Washington bureaucrats. Legislatively he introduced an amendment to the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act in 2014 to prevent the federal government from owning more than 50 percent of land within a state.
  • Marco Rubio discussed public lands in a town hall over the weekend in Nevada, saying, “…we should open it up, to not just state governments, but to the private sector.”  In the Senate, he twice co-sponsored the Federal Lands Freedom Act to give states the authority to develop all forms of energy resources on federal lands. He also voted for Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s amendment to allow exchanges, sales or transfer federal lands to states in the FY16 budget bill.
  • John Kasich this week released a radio ad in Nevada entitled "This Land is Your Land." The ad says, “John Kasich wants Nevadans, not Washington bureaucrats, to manage the land.” While Ohio does not have a significant amount of federal lands, Kasich’s record on state parks is the next best thing. And it’s a mixed record. As governor, he signed a bill in 2011 allowing oil and natural gas production within state parks. But in 2014 he reversed his position.

As you can see, energy development and public lands access are very much part of the discussion this election cycle, and not every candidate has the same position. It’s encouraging to see they are pro-actively addressing issues facing our industry. As outside groups are pressing the issues, particularly environmental groups, people working within the oil and natural gas industry likewise need to be informed and engaged.

I hope you can take the opportunity to consider the candidates’ positions and to share the links above with your co-workers, friends and family. So far it has been states in the Midwest, Northeast and South that have dominated the early primaries. But voters in the West can help decide this election and the future of energy policies.

For the next 10 months, Western Energy Alliance will fight the overreach of the Obama Administration. But in 2017 we will have a new president, and it is up to those engaged to decide which person and policies are best suited for the future of our economy and industry.