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.
Flipping through TikTok this week, I came across a farmer who succinctly explained the problem he’s facing during the COVID-19 crisis. It’s the same one our industry is encountering. Showing a ditch full of rotting onions with his cellphone camera, he explained, “The supply chain is broken. Nobody wants those onions. I can’t give them away for a penny-a-pound. Nobody wants them.”
“When you close all the restaurants, you change the whole supply chain,” he added.
For Shay Myers, the farmer from Idaho, he can’t even donate his crop. He told a local news station that with the financial loses he’s already faced, plus the cost of transportation and packaging, it’s not possible to donate his crop to food banks.
The impacts of COVID-19 on Americans’ health, the economy and our social fabric have been truly stunning. In a short period of time, people’s lives have been upended, millions sent to the unemployment line, and freedom of movement restricted. Those businesses allowed to operate to provide the medical supplies, food, fuel and other essentials for the response and daily sustenance are faced with challenges of supply disruptions, hindrance of movement, worker shortages and increased risk of infection.
Recognizing those challenges, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a memorandum that gives flexibility to companies trying to maintain operations under difficult circumstances. The policy extended deadlines for companies to meet environmental reporting requirements, and flexibility with routine testing and monitoring, if they can demonstrate a coronavirus-related hardship. The memo was a practical response that relaxes some of the red tape of environmental compliance, but not the substance.
In March, Judge Haywood Gilliam in the Northern District of California upheld the Trump BLM’s 2017 rescission rule that overturned the 2015 Obama hydraulic fracturing rule. This means that the 2015 fracking rule that the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and Western Energy Alliance have been fighting in three different courts for so many years has received another district court ruling against it. And while echoes of Monty Python’s “I’m not dead yet” echo in my ears, as the environmental groups are likely to appeal, the 2015 BLM fracking rule has lost another serious lifeline.