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.
Yesterday, Western Energy Alliance ran a full-page ad in the New York Times responding to presidential candidates who’ve called us criminal and said we should be locked up. Our open letter, signed by 54 executives in the industry, responds that we would be criminal not to produce the life-sustaining energy that keeps people warm in the winter, cool in the summer, gets them to school and work to better their lives, and puts food on the table, medicines in the cabinet, and a smartphone in every pocket.
Yes, the rhetoric is strong, but commensurate. And as I explained to a reporter who contacted us about the ad, he wouldn’t be talking to us if we had said, “We’re a bunch of really nice people.”