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EARTHWORKS applauds the Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey for their initiative to bring balance to the Nation’s oil and gas program . For the past decade, there was an unprecedented run on the federal lands by big energy companies, securing oil and gas leases at bargain basement prices and speculating on the federal estate at the expense of the taxpayer and other resources.

In yesterday’s announcement, the Interior Department and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will bring some common sense to the decisions about leasing on our federal lands. In particular:

  • The land management agency will retake responsibility for determinations on what lands should be available for development, instead of responding to the oil and gas industry’s demands to build their portfolio of assets.
  • Our critical drinking water supplies and wildlife habitats, located on federal lands, will benefit from the agency’s interdisciplinary approach to decide not just to lease or not to lease, but to figure out the consequences of that decision.

EARTHWORKS is also intrigued by the idea of a new Energy Reform Office at Interior. For too long, the land management agency that issues permits and secures production of our federal lands coordinate poorly with the agency that manages production and secures a fair return to the federal treasury. This new office should help the Interior Department get a handle on all aspects of its energy leasing, permitting, revenue collection and monitoring programs. It is a long-needed step towards improving the production and management of energy from our federal lands and off-shore resources.

As the Department moves forward, tackling the responsibilities of energy management on our federal lands, we encourage the agencies to protect communities by requiring disclosure of chemicals used in oil and gas production on federal lands. We also hope to see review of the royalties and other revenues generated by energy production, whether it is traditional fossil fuels or renewable energy sources, to ensure that the taxpayers get a fair return for the use of our public lands.

Post by Cathy Carlson