Sportsmen, Environmentalists React to Oil and Gas Impacts

The rapid development of oil and gas drilling on public land in the Rocky Mountain States has united former opponents-sportsmen and environmentalists-to work together to protect wildlife habitat.This past week, representatives from both citizen groups came to Washington DC to speak to lawmakers and sit in on Congressional hearings about proposed energy legislation introduced by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va. and denounced by the Bush administration.

From an article in the Helena Independent Record:

Hugo Tureck, whose ranch about 30 miles from the Missouri Breaks National Monument contains both private and public lands, said environmental groups and hunters and fishermen have allied because they have the same vision.

“My fellow hunters and I are here today to ask Congress to compel the BLM to treat these landscapes the way we do,” he said. “We all use gas and oil. We are not against this use on public lands. All we ask is that this short-term use must be tempered with the long-term vision of a landscape that we will leave for future generations, and of course the aquifers that are under it.”

He noted that much land in Montana is under split estate, with the underground minerals controlled by BLM and the surface controlled by private landowners. He praised a provision in Rahall’s legislation that would require oil and gas operators to notify surface owners well in advance of operations and secure a written agreement from them or make a good faith effort to do so.

“Montanans are afraid, and they’re responding,” he said. “We look now to Wyoming and we look to Colorado and see what’s happened. And so our case I think is going to be (an) overwhelming response to Washington, D.C.”

Rahall’s bill addresses numerous topics ranging from energy corridors to Minerals Management Service audits to carbon capture. It would eliminate the 30-day limit for federal managers to process drilling permits, repeal a two-year time frame to identify energy corridors and repeal “categorical exclusions” that industry says prevent costly duplication of environmental reviews.

The committee’s ranking Republican called it a “bastard bill” and administration officials outlined numerous objections to it. They said eliminating the exclusions would cost more time and money without any benefits and that the corridors provision would throw away a collaborative effort already under way.

Marc Smith, executive director of the Independent Producers Association of Mountain States, has said the bill would be detrimental to energy security and would drive up energy prices. He said almost every provision of the bill would cut oil and gas production in the Rockies.

Perhaps Smith meant to say that any changes in the current administration’s energy policy would cut into the profit margin of oil and gas production. Natural gas prices are headed downward and that probably will have more to do with future drilling prospects than the cost of mitigating impacts on federal land or notifying surface owners of impending gas development.

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