Diane Brower: Ask Zinke to reconsider energy policies on public lands
As our community anticipates the visit of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to Steamboat Springs on Aug. 10 and the Stand For Our Land rally to be held on the old Routt County Courthouse lawn that afternoon at 5:30 p.m., we might want to consider what messages we’d like to convey to Zinke related to his public land policies.
In December 2017 Secretary Zinke took action to reduce the Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by almost 46 percent. These two national monuments in nearby Utah are much loved and much visited by residents of Routt County.
They came into being following years of public input and collaboration among stakeholders. Substantial areas of these beautiful, pristine and culturally important national monuments are now being opened up to oil and gas leases and the roads, drills, noise, lights and pollution of other sorts that come with them.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is another spectacular, pristine and priceless ecosystem, its abundant wildlife comparable to the Serengeti in Africa. The ANWR was opened up to oil and gas development in the Trump Administration’s recent tax cuts. The tax bill’s supporters claimed that revenue from the drilling in ANWR would offset some of the tax cuts and increase energy independence.
As pointed out by the Sierra Club’s Michael Brune, “… to make a dent in the budget deficit, oil and gas companies would need to lease every single available acre of the coastal plain at prices 10 times higher than what they’re paying anywhere else in Alaska’s North Slope. As for increasing energy independence, simply keeping in place the Obama administration’s fuel-economy standards would save almost twice as much oil than is estimated to exist beneath the entire coastal plain.”
Opening up places like the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development is supposedly being done in the interest of national security. The U.S. is currently exporting more natural gas than it’s importing. That will hardly make us more secure. Better to keep it in the ground until we need it.
Last year, Secretary Zinke ordered the Bureau of Land Management to ramp up sales of oil and gas leases on federal land. This, when the U.S. is becoming a net exporter of energy.
It’s worth mentioning here that there is such a glut of oil and gas leases being offered up currently that much actual development of these leases won’t happen for decades. But the selling of these leases will tie up management of public lands for years. The leases that aren’t sold can be bought up by energy speculators at bargain-basement prices — not to the benefit of taxpayers or our national deficit.
The rush to increase oil and gas leases on Bureau of Land Management public lands will require the agency to shift its focus from managing public lands for multiple purposes (grazing, water, fish and wildlife and historic, cultural and recreation uses) to an all-out effort to expedite oil and gas lease sales and energy development. The effect this will have on rural communities is that the BLM will have less resources and staff for such things as fire prevention, rangeland improvement, conservation of fish and wildlife habitat and recreation.
Maybe this gives you some ideas for a homemade sign to carry at the rally. You could also email or call Rep. Scott Tipton who is supportive of this administration’s energy policies and ask him to reconsider where he stands on oil and gas development in national monuments and refuges.
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