Groundhog Day


Tomorrow, the House Natural Resources Sub-Committee on Energy and Mineral Resources will hold a hearing titled, “Energy in America: BLM’s Red-Tape Run Around and its Impact on American Energy Production.” That’s quite a mouthful. But seriously, this tired tune again?

It seems like whenever Congress isn’t on the edge of a meltdown, they find time to recycle the same talking point filled hearings, and ‘drill baby drill’ bills over and over again. Just last November, the same committee advanced several pieces of legislation in the House that included all their favorite catch phrases like: “over-regulation”, “red-tape” and “burdensome bureaucratic processes.”

In 2011 alone, there were 20 hearings on this same subject. Unfortunately, for the proponents of this silly exercise, the facts don’t change no matter how many times they say it.

The Denver Post reported last year that oil and gas operators are simply following the oil and gas, often times off of public lands. In his story, reporter Mark Jaffe cites a Congressional Research Service report, which found, “shale plays are primarily situated on nonfederal lands and is where most of the growth in production is projected to occur.” Put simply, the oil and gas industry is following the geology and the market, not being burdened by excessive red tape.

Furthermore, in 2012, oil and gas operator’s left nearly 7,000 approved applications to drill on the table. Meaning oil and gas companies didn’t think they made economic sense, hardly a reflection of burdensome bureaucratic processes.

Protests, which can cause delays, court battles and increase development costs, reached a high of more than 47 percent in 2009. In response to this gridlock, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar undertook reforms to the leasing program that have resulted in fewer protests.

And those reforms are working. According to the BLM “The percentage of BLM leases protested declined again in fiscal year 2012, which ended Sept. 30, continuing a trend that began in 2009. Protests were lodged on fewer than 18 percent of the 2,064 parcels offered for sale during FY 2012, the lowest percentage since FY 2003, when the filing of protests began to accelerate.” Yet industry trade groups like the Western Energy Alliance have opposed the reforms since their inception.

Domestic energy production is obviously important for economies out West, and a part of our landscape. But we need to make sure we do it right the first time. The strategy of drill first, ask questions later doesn’t make sense for the many small businesses, sportsmen, and families who count on reasonable protections for our air, water, and natural resources. It’s time Congress remembers that.

Join the effort to strengthen the American West.