A bill to give states control over drilling on federal land introduced by Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe today is reviving debates over state control of federal land that were first started by controversial Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.
The Inhofe bill, which is also sponsored by presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz, would give states the ability to make decisions about energy permitting on federal lands across the West. Just last year, Bundy defied a federal order to stop grazing on federal land without permission — a move that has kicked off another fringe “sagebrush rebellion” to transfer federal lands to states.
Ever since, state legislatures have been debating extreme proposals to hand national public lands over to states — a move which has already been proven risky and expensive by countless studies, and is hugely unfavorable in the public opinion. While westerners are asking for balance between energy development and other uses on our public lands, out-of-touch lawmakers are trying to toggle land management responsibility from one bureaucrat to another. Just this week, a bipartisan poll of westerners found that a whopping 68% consider our public lands American places that belong to everyone—essentially rejecting a political maneuver like this.
In any case, the facts show it’s industry, and not regulation, that’s determining current production on federal lands. Just last year, more than 34.5 million acres of federal lands were under lease by the oil and gas industry, yet only 12 million of those acres—less than 35%–were actually producing an oil or gas. And while industry—and now a few senators—complain about a lack of access to federal lands for drilling, they’re sitting on over 6,000 unused approved drilling permits for those same lands.