For part 1 please click here
On 22 August, the Republican campaign released its “The Romney Plan For A Stronger Middle Class: ENERGY INDEPENDENCE.”
Two of the white paper’s six sections are, “Empower states to control onshore energy development” and “Open offshore areas for energy development.”
The Romney white paper proposals, adopted should he become President, would end a century of federal control over oil and gas drilling and coal mining on government lands by transferring decision-making on drilling and mining federal lands to individual states. The policy stands in stark contrast to those of both previous Democratic and Republican presidents, dating back to Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, who more than a century ago first set aside vast areas of federal lands, mostly in the energy-rich Western states including New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Alaska, to preserve wildlife and open the tracts for recreation.
The federal government currently possesses roughly 28 percent of the 2.27 billion acres of land in the United States, but as of March, only about 37 million acres were under lease for oil and natural gas operations, of which about 16.3 million acres have active oil and natural gas production or exploration, according to the Interior Department.(“Statement of Anu K. Mittal, Director, Natural Resources and Environment, Federal Land Management, ‘Availability and Potential Reliability of Selected Data Elements at Five Agencies,’ Testimony
Before the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, Committee on Natural Resources, House of Representatives, United States Government Accountability Office, 3 May 2012
The enormity of this asset is not in doubt – the question before the American people is, who would be a better steward of this land for future generations, the federal government or private energy companies?
Four land management agencies - the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service in the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture currently manage about 95 percent of the federal land, while the federal Bureau of Reclamation, also in the Interior Department, manages another one percent of federal land.
Shifting control of these federal lands to state control will shift them from a unified federal oversight to a plethora of varying state regulations, which in many cases are less stringent than current federal guidelines.
The Romney white paper acknowledges this proposed fragmentation but nevertheless asserts that state oversight will be “adequate,” observing, “Federal agencies will certify state processes as adequate, according to established criteria that are sufficiently broad, to afford the states maximum flexibility to ascertain what is most appropriate.”
Under the Romney plan, transferring oversight of federal lands to state control will likely lead to energy companies utilizing their immense fiscal clout to target states with the most lax oversight procedures, and visitors to Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore could soon see their views imped by energy derricks.
“Open offshore areas for energy development”
All energy development comes with risk. But even before the April 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico disaster, federal agencies were warning that their resources could be overwhelmed by a massive disaster.
At the time of the Gulf of Mexico debacle, the Congressional Research Service warned, “Considering that U.S. oil consumption and oil imports have increased in recent decades, the trend of declining spill incidents and volume in past years is noteworthy. However, the risk of a major oil spill remains. Although recent Energy Information Administration (EIA) projections indicate that oil imports are expected to level off in coming years, the United States is expected to continue importing a substantial percentage of the oil it consumes. The threat of oil spills raises the question of whether U.S. officials have the necessary resources at hand to respond to a major spill. There is some concern that the favorable U.S. spill record has resulted in a loss of experienced personnel, capable of responding quickly and effectively to a major oil spill.”(Jonathan L. Ramseur, Specialist in Environmental Policy, “Oil Spills in U.S. Coastal Waters: Background, Governance, and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, 30 April 2010.)
Do the U.S. coastal regions want to deal with seemingly inevitable oil spills that will occur off the U.S. Pacific and Atlantic coasts should they be opened under the Romney plan to offshore drilling? As a cautionary reminder, the 20 April 2010 catastrophe began with the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion after BP drilled its Macondo 252 well off the Louisiana Gulf coast. By the time that it was capped, the Macondo well gushed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 straight days.(“Storm Isaac tars Louisiana beaches with oil from BP spill,” Reuters news agency, 11 September 2012
Quite aside from engineering errors, weather is an additional element that must also be considered if the U.S. is to expand its offshore energy operations. According to the federal agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “National Weather Service National Hurricane Center, the 2005 Katrina hurricane “was one of the most devastating hurricanes in the history of the United States. It is the deadliest hurricane to strike the United States since the Palm Beach-Lake Okeechobee hurricane of September 1928. It produced catastrophic damage - estimated at $75 billion in the New Orleans area and along the Mississippi coast - and is the costliest U. S. hurricane on record.”(“Hurricanes in History,” National Weather Service National Hurricane Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration @ http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/outreach/history/#katrina.)
Accordingly, does the American electorate truly want to “Establish a new five-year offshore leasing plan that aggressively opens new areas for development beginning with those off the coast of Virginia and the Carolinas”?
The Department of Justice noted, “In response to the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, fire, and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. Government has committed to holding all responsible parties accountable for all cleanup costs and other damage. Federal officials have identified BP as one of the responsible parties, and BP has begun to receive and process applications for claims stemming from the effects of the oil spill.”(“BP Deepwater Horizon (BP) oil spill Fraud,” U.S. Department of Justice @ http://www.justice.gov/criminal/oilspill/).
U.S. government concerns for the stewardship of the land date back more than a century – does the U.S. electorate really want to ignore this legacy in pursuit of a “quick fix” purported energy indpendence? Who benefits – American voters or energy companies?
And, if things fail, who pays for the cleanup of Yellowstone. Malibu or Myrtle Beach?
Did You Know?
Republican President Theodore Roosevelt was instrumental in establishing the nation’s first national parks, during his term signing legislation establishing five national parks, as well as the 1906 Antiquities Act, which allowed him and his successors to proclaim historic landmarks, historic or prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interests in federal ownership as national monuments.(Barry Mackintosh, “Theodore Roosevelt and the National Park System,” National Park Service, 1999
For part 1 please click here
By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com