Jane Van Ryan
Posted March 30, 2010
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has signed a law that would allow his state to file eminent domain proceedings against the federal government.
The goal: to gain control of state lands where energy development cannot occur because they are surrounded by protected federal lands.
Since the U.S. Constitution prohibits condemning federal lands, it's unlikely that Gov. Herbert will prevail in court, but his action is sending a message to Washington where energy-rich lands have been put off-limits by the federal government.
"When the donkey doesn't move," the governor said at a news conference, "you need to hit him across the head with a two-by-four just to get their attention." (The Wall Street Journal)
Furthermore, an ICF International study found that opening off-limits areas in the United States to energy development could create 160,000 jobs, greatly reduce the trade deficit, and raise $1.7 trillion in government revenues to pay for services. In Utah, royalty payments from energy development would go to the state's schools.
But there are many areas both onshore and offshore where oil and natural gas development is prohibited, and more areas are in danger of being placed off-limits.
- Recently the Interior Department listed 14 sites in nine states that could be designated as national monuments under the Antiquities Act;
- Earlier this month, the U.S. Forest Service dropped two parcels in West Virginia from a federal oil and natural gas lease sale;
- In Alaska, the administration's decision to declare the polar bear a threatened species is proving a hindrance to energy development;
- In Montana, a federal judge has approved the nation's first settlement requiring the government to suspend 38,000 acres of oil and natural gas leases so it can determine how energy development activities might affect the climate; and
- A similar suit involving 70,000 acres is pending in New Mexico.
The people of the oil and natural gas industry take seriously their role in protecting the environment. They also recognize that energy demand is growing--for alternatives, renewables, biomass, and coal, as well as for oil and natural gas.
America needs a balanced energy policy that encourages energy development, creates jobs, and contains environmental safeguards. It needs a policy that cares for people as well as the environment.
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