Drilling studied in off-limits areas of Rockiesgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
April 6, 2001
Drilling Studied in Off-Limits Areas of Rockies
By DOUGLAS JEHL
WASHINGTON, April 5 — An energy task force headed by Vice President Dick Cheney is reviewing a draft plan that will open millions of acres of public land to new oil and gas development, much of it in the Rocky Mountains.
Along with the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, which President Bush has already identified as a target, the plan mentions as candidates for new drilling several large tracts in the Rockies with off-limits status that could be revoked by the Interior Department without Congressional approval. These could include parts of the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana and Wyoming's Jack Morrow Hills.
In addition, the plan proposes that the administration work with Congress to free at least some of the 17 million acres of federal land in 11 Western states that is under temporary protection from energy development. Congress is studying whether to grant this land permanent protection as a wilderness area.
The 25-page draft report reflects recommendations from nearly a dozen Interior Department working groups created by Gale A. Norton, the interior secretary, administration officials said. A department spokesman, Mark Pfeifle, described the report as "an early draft" whose contents included "numerous options that may or may not be considered." But the breadth and detail of the plan, whose contents were first reported this morning in USA Today, leave little doubt that the group is homing in on lands in the West as a source of new energy supplies.
The focus on the Rocky Mountain West reflects the fact that the region contains the lion's share of onshore natural gas reserves in the lower 48 states, administration officials said. But it also appears to reflect what Mr. Bush himself conceded last week to be formidable opposition in Congress to the idea of permitting oil and gas drilling in the Arctic refuge.
During his presidential campaign, Mr. Bush argued that too much of the country's public land had been placed off limits to development. In a meeting with a small group of reporters last month, Mr. Bush made the point even more directly, saying: "There's a mentality that says you can't explore and protect land. We're going to change that attitude."
Until now, major environmental organizations opposed to the administration's energy plans have devoted the bulk of their time and money to trying to head off the plan for drilling in the Arctic refuge.Now, the environmentalists have begun to shift their battle to the Rockies, where they argue that the quantities of oil and gas available are too insignificant to justify any easing of the current lands protections.
"What they're proposing simply is not necessary," said Bill Meadows, president of the Wilderness Society, a research and advocacy group based in Washington. "There's no need to destroy our nation's wilderness areas, because it will not do anything to address our nation's energy needs."
As evidence of the need to open new Rocky Mountain lands to energy development, officials of the oil and gas industry and members of the Bush administration have pointed to a 1999 study by the National Petroleum Council, a semiofficial body appointed by the Energy Department.
That report concluded that 137 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to supply the United States for at least six years at current rates of consumption, lay beneath public lands in the Rockies that were subject to access restrictions.
Of that total, 29 trillion cubic feet of gas resources were said to be entirely closed to development, and that number would grow by another 10 trillion cubic feet if a forest-protection plan developed by the Clinton administration took effect. But people opposed to opening new lands to drilling say those numbers obscure that the vast majority of public land is already open to drilling, even if under some restrictions.
Still, in spelling out their goals, the authors of the Interior Department plan made clear that they were not satisfied with the status quo. It called for modifications of "those planning decisions which unnecessarily close or restrict energy development," and said its overall objective was to "enhance land-use planning processes and procedures in a manner which will enhance federal energy development on Department of the Interior and Forest Service administered lands."
Mr. Cheney's task force includes the secretaries of the treasury, interior, agriculture, commerce,transportation and energy, along with the administrator of the environmental protection agency and several White House officials.
Some of the actions described in the report could be carried out by the administration unilaterally, including changes that would ease restrictions on public land that the oil and gas industry saw as obstacles to drilling. But other actions, including changing the wilderness study areas, would almost certainly require Congressional approval.
Its members and their staff have been conducting their review behind closed doors. Juleanna Glover Weiss, a spokeswoman for Mr. Cheney, declined to comment on the recommendations today except to say that the draft plan had "not been formally presented" to the group.
"It's still early in the process," she added, "and we don't expect to have any announcements until later this spring."
Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company
-- Swissrose (email@example.com), April 06, 2001
That report concluded that 137 trillion
cubic feet of natural gas, enough to supply
the United States for at least six years at
current rates of consumption, lay beneath
public lands in the Rockies that were subject
to access restrictions.
Then when they use up all the gas we're left
with the destruction and find ourselves in
the same place. Reliance on non-renewable
resources will put more pressure to destroy
what little natrual beauty is left.
-- spider (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 06, 2001.
Exactly my thoughts! Swissrose.
-- Swissrose (email@example.com), April 06, 2001.