Lincoln Brown

I suppose I should jump for joy and shout to the rafters. After all Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has decided to bless us with a brand new pile of cash (freshly minted no doubt) to increase conservation and tourism on our public lands.

Thank God! Were it not for the good graces of the DOI, the people in my part of the country would be consigned to real jobs with benefits! But lo! Here he comes descending on a cloud, Ken Salazar offering Americans in the West a chance to wait tables, tune skis, shine shoes and clean hotel rooms!

And not a moment too soon! Were the Secretary and the special interest groups not in control of the fate of the land in America’s West, those of us who live here might take the silly notion into our heads that we could buy homes, start businesses, send our children to college and perhaps even retire some day. What a relief indeed that Secretary Salazar and his acolytes have arrived on scene to remind us that our true purpose in life is to cater to those happy few with enough capitol on hand to actually recreate on our public lands.

Were it not for Mr. Salazar, we of the proletariat might still be laboring under the misguided notion that we could achieve something in our lives. And furthermore, the American people would still be struggling with the notion that energy to power our homes and vehicles with such things as coal, oil and natural gas rather than solar plants (that even segments of the environmentalist community object to) and windmills that make casserole out of eagles and bats, are viable options. Despite the fact that  “renewable” resources have yet to become commercially viable, and have made a hash out of Spain’s economy.

I don’t want to belittle the benefits of tourism, hunting and fishing, nor do I want to belittle conservation. Travel and tourism are components of a healthy local economy and I have yet to meet anyone who seriously advocates doing away with wilderness,  or who wants wholesale clear cutting of forests or wanton rape of the land. In my experience, those people exist only in the imaginations and propaganda of  the environmental left.

Those of us who actually live adjacent to those forest and deserts love them and enjoy them more than any non-resident could ever know. And we take care of them. I myself have two very bad knees as a result of time as a wildland firefighter, and  even the natural gas companies have invested time and money in improving sage grouse habitat.

So while tourism, hunting fishing and hiking are important, What Mr. Salazar, the rest of the Administration and the Environmental Left have so cavalierly ignored is that energy extraction will provide not only energy independence, but long term economic development. I submit for your perusal a study conducted by the Western Energy Alliance that shows benefits of accessing energy in the West:

http://westernenergyalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Blueprint-for-Western-Energy-Prosperity.pdf

For those of you interested in the Reader’s Digest version, the report says by 2020 the resources in the West could produce as much oil and natural gas on a daily basis as the U.S. imports from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Venezuela, Colombia, Algeria, Nigeria, and Russia combined, coupled with a 16 percent increase of direct and indirect jobs which includes 57 hundred jobs in the State of Utah alone. It also highlights the clean burning nature and affordability of natural gas and touches on the fact that where alleged experts once said that we had a 50 year supply of natural gas, that number is closer to 100 years.

This translates not only into this country being able to turn its back on foreign imports, but also buys the time needed to make renewable energy viable. And it creates jobs. Not just jobs on a rig or laying pipeline, but it generates jobs and  revenue for restaurants, hotels, clothing stores, auto dealerships, hair salons, grocery stores, cell phone stores…you get the drift. When people are working, they purchase goods and services, and  that creates jobs, and moves money.

I majored in religion in college and even I get that. And domestic energy lowers the price of gasoline, and natural gas. Which means if we take natural gas out of the ground in Utah, it will lower the price for those who use it in Chicago.

But these opportunities will be derailed by the policies of the Department of The Interior which has time and again sought, and to add layers of extra review and administration to the leasing process, if not create outright roadblocks through such things as the BLM’s Master Leasing Program, Secretarial Order 3310, and additional layers of regulation handed down by the DOI two years ago. Add to that the problem of de facto wilderness. This problem cropped up recently  when the environmentalists, apparently calling the shots had the Utah State Office the BLM close roads over which it has no authority, in southern Uintah County, Utah.

It was not long after the Western Energy Alliance study was released that the environmentalists came out with a report of  their own claming that there were no federal roadblocks to leasing: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/W/WY_WESTERN_OIL_LEASES_UTOL-?SITE=CODEN&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

In that report, they raise what at first blush seems to be a reasonable objection: If the oil and gas companies are not using the leases that they have, why grant them more access of expedite the process?  Makes sense right?

The problem with that argument is that the leasing process does not work the way the environmentalists would have you believe.

Simply obtaining a lease does not give a company an automatic right to drill. A lease serves only to identify a piece of land as having potential energy resources. In reality a lease only serves to inform all parties that an interest in the land exists. That piece of land may or may not be put up for bid, and the bidding is open to any interested company, not just the company that identified it. And once the bid has been accepted, the company must then submit an Application for Permission to Drill, or APD. That kicks off is an exhaustive process in which Environmental Assessments or Environmental Impact Statements are developed according to the NEPA process. During that time every aspect of the land in question and the effects of drilling on that land are scrutinized, and there is always the chance that the BLM will in fact say no. And of course during the process, and even after approval of the APD, any number of environmental groups can sue, and in fact have sued on behalf of prairies dogs, desert tortoises, watershed issues, plant species, air quality, water quality, you name, they will sue over it. And by the way, you pick up the tab for the legal counsel on those suits through your taxes. Look at your check stub and think about that when you are filling up your gas tank, or paying your heating bill this winter.

Some companies take a more methodical approach to drilling and will in fact go slow in order to maximize their time and efforts, and so they don’t always get to all of the parcels right away.

Sometimes, the resources may be in a place that might be tougher to access, and a company may choose to wait until new, more environmentally friendly technology comes along before they try to access those resources.

Speaking of technology, those companies have worked to create such innovations as directional drilling which creates less surface disturbance, have begun recycling water used on site, and have switched to natural gas to power their equipment to reduce their carbon footprint. And did I mention federal law requires them to return the land to the condition in which they found it?  All of this in addition to the sage grouse habitat I mentioned above.

If in fact, the federal government provides no impediment to drilling, why does drilling occur in a timely fashion on Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands which are managed by the State, and on private property in the Dakotas and in Pennsylvania? The variable here is the Administration, and administration that favors the environmental left, and supports energy resources that are not yet viable on a large scale.

And so, I leave it to you to posit to the President, the Department of the Interior, your members of Congress and the Senate why the resources in the West remain fallow, and the jobs will remain unclaimed. And why you will pay more for your energy in the years to come.


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Lincoln Brown

Lincoln Brown is the Program Director at KVEL Radio in Vernal, Utah. He hosts “The Lincoln Brown Show” Mondays through Fridays from 8-9 AM.