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Vote “yes” on Heinrich split estate amendment. Vote “yes” on passage HR 3534

Biodiversity Conservation Alliance * Californians for Western Wilderness * Colorado Environmental Coalition * Dakota Resource Council * Dakota Rural Action * EARTHWORKS * Environment Colorado * Natural Resources Defense Council * New Mexico Republicans for Environmental Protection New Mexico Wildlife Federation * Northern Plains Resource Council * Oregon Rural Action * Powder River Basin Resource Council * Republicans for Environmental Protection * San Juan Citizens Alliance * Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance * The Wilderness Society * Truchas Chapter of Trout Unlimited * Upper Green River Alliance * Western Organization of Resource Councils * Wilderness Workshop * Wyoming Outdoor Council

July 13, 2010

The Honorable Nick Rahall II
House Natural Resources Committee
1324 Longworth House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Doc Hastings
Ranking Member
House Natural Resources Committee
1329 Longworth House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Rahall and Mr. Hastings:

On behalf of our members in the Rocky Mountain West and elsewhere, we are writing to express our support for the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act of 2009, H.R. 3534, introduced by Chairman Rahall, as well as Representative Heinrich's surface owner protection amendment.

While much recent attention has focused on the dangers of offshore drilling in light of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster, accidents involving human health and the environment from oil and gas operations take place onshore as well, posing threats to drinking water, air quality, wildlife habitat, agricultural lands, the health of communities and our prized public lands.

H.R. 3534 includes a number of provisions that are critical to ensuring that the fiscal and environmental oversight problems that have afflicted both the onshore and offshore oil and gas programs are reformed, including:

  • Sec. 231 requires issuance of new diligent development requirements to encourage development of and discourage speculative holding of leases.
  • Sec. 232 requires reporting on efforts to develop nonproducing leases.
  • Sec. 233 requires notification of the public, private surface owners and recreational leaseholders in advance of leasing and permitting.
  • Sec. 234 specifies that onshore lease sales take place no more than three times per year per state, increases annual rental rates to $2.50 per acre, and eliminates non-competitive lease sales.
  • Sec. 236 requires the use of safety and environmental standards (now voluntary) to ensure the sound, efficient, and environmentally responsible development of oil and gas in a manner that avoids, minimizes and mitigates impacts from oil and gas development.
  • Sec. 237 requires complete and timely reclamation of lease tracts, and restoration of any adversely affected lands or surface waters.
  • Sec. 238 requires wildlife sustainability planning, management, monitoring and evaluation.
  • Sec. 239 requires public disclosure of the often-toxic chemicals used in drilling and completion of oil and gas wells on federal leases.
  • Sec. 241 ends the use of categorical exclusions established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 by various oil and gas activities to short cut environmental review and analysis.
  • Sec. 702 establishes a fee of $2/bbl for oil and $0.20/million btu for natural gas on all federal onshore and offshore leases in effect on the date of enactment that are producing oil and gas in commercial quantities.


Representative Heinrich's surface owner protection amendment would enact stronger protections for those who own the 57 million acres of private land above federal minerals. As the oil and gas industry has expanded over the past decade, millions of acres of land have been disturbed by pipelines, roads, compressor stations, wastewater containment ponds and well pads, turning agricultural areas into industrial zones, the Westerners who own these split estate lands find that they have very little leverage to ensure responsible development on their land.

Representative Heinrich's amendment would empower these landowners to have a greater say in the course of mineral development on their land and ensure compensation for damages. It would require BLM to notify surface owners before leasing and permitting; require a surface use agreement or bond; and ensure compensation for lost agricultural production and income, lost land value, lost use of and lost access to the land, and lost value of improvements — similar to state laws in Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Enactment of these important provisions will not impede development of our federal oil and gas resources, but will help balance our nation's need for oil and natural gas with the need to protect the environment, wildlife, and the rights of property owners. We urge passage of these critical provisions of H.R. 3534, and Representative Heinrich's amendment.