Energy Plan Should Protect Western Lands, Groups Charge

Letter seeks to bar irresponsible energy development from Rocky Mountain West


Cat Lazaroff, 202-667-4500

In a letter to the leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee delivered today, 25 citizen and conservation groups asked Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) and Ranking Member John Dingell (D-MI) to ensure that the House energy bill protects western communities, landscapes, and residents from irresponsible oil and gas development.

The groups emphasized responsible development of energy resources, saying “this can be done, however, without further rushing energy development or elevating it over other public land uses.”

“We represent ranchers and farmers, hunters, anglers and outfitters, business owners, hikers, campers and wildlife watchers,” wrote the groups. “Many of our organizations have longstanding reputations as advocates for responsible and sustainable energy policies.”

Energy development in the Rocky Mountain West should protect the other important values of these landscapes, the groups added, including drinking water supplies, wildlife habitat, agriculture and recreation.

A number of provisions in the House energy bill would attempt to make energy production the dominant use of public lands, regardless of the costs to Western landowners, communities, and landscapes. The bill attempts to weaken protections in the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act as well as require federal agencies to rubber stamp applications to drill with little to no environmental and public review. The groups urged House members to oppose the inclusion of any such provisions in the final House bill.

Oil and natural gas development is already accelerating across the Rocky Mountain West. According to the Department of the Interior’s January 2003 Energy Policy and Conservation Act study, 85 percent of federally owned oil resources and 88 percent of federally owned gas resources in the Rocky Mountain states are already available for exploration and drilling. Three-quarters of leased Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands are not yet in production. In fact, the BLM has issued thousands more drilling permits than the industry can actually drill.

Despite these facts, the BLM continues to issue leases on environmentally sensitive lands, and the industry continues to complain that there are “too many restrictions and impediments” to drilling on public lands.

“America needs a responsible energy policy that enhances our national security by promoting clean, renewable energy sources and energy efficiency,” the groups concluded. “Such a policy must respect the private property rights of western ranchers and landowners, protect our most environmentally sensitive lands and wilderness-quality landscapes from the impacts of energy development, and preserve the entire spectrum of values and uses of our public lands from drinking water and wildlife habitat to clean air and recreation.” They urge members of Congress to oppose the energy bill.

The House bill contains provisions that seek to:

  • Undermine the Clean Water Act by exempting from the “stormwater” requirements all oil and gas construction activities, including construction of roads, drill pads, pipeline corridors, refineries, compressor stations, sweetening plants, etc. (Sec. 328)
  • Weaken the Safe Drinking Water Act by prohibiting hydraulic fracturing fluids from being considered pollutants of drinking water (Sec. 327)
  • Allow oil and gas companies to take up to two years to comply with drilling permit application requirements, but limit the BLM to only ten to thirty days to make decisions on drilling permit applications (Sec. 348)
  • Allow the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy and Interior to designate utility and pipeline corridors across public lands without any public input (Sec. 350)
  • Put the Department of Energy, an agency with no experience or expertise in public land management, in charge of determining whether land management actions would have “a significant adverse effect” on energy development by implementing Executive Order 13211 (Sec. 246)


Read the letter

For more information, contact:

Randy Moorman, Earthjustice, 202-667-4500
Korey Hartwich, Friends of the Earth, 202-222-0733
Tom Darin, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, 307-733-9417
Sean McMahon, National Wildlife Federation, 202-797-6602
Johanna Wald, Natural Resources Defense Council, 415-875-6100
Dan Randolph, San Juan Citizens Alliance, 970-259-3583
Pete Downing, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 202-266-0471
Matt Sura, Western Colorado Congress, 970-256-7650
Mike Chiropolos, Western Resource Advocates, 303-444-1188

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