Rodger Steen: HR 4239 is assault on public lands | SteamboatToday.com

Rodger Steen: HR 4239 is assault on public lands

Here comes another assault on our national public lands and environment. HR 4239 is a bill before the House that would transfer administration of our publicly-owned and BLM-administered oil and gas resources to state control.

This might appear to be a reasonable concept if the current national interests were to carry over as requirements on the state agencies. But because of this bill's severe restrictions on authority and funding of the federal land manager, those interests are lost in favor of the state's interests.

This transfer of administration in effect would elevate oil and gas extraction to top land use priority for our national public lands without addressing how land use for other purposes, including grazing, hunting, logging and recreation, would be integrated. Other protections such as from air and water pollution, which can be regional issues and cross state boundaries are not addressed in this bill.

Administration of our public lands concurrently by federal and multiple state agencies with different levels of authority — and funding — would become chaotic or completely unmanageable. The state agency would authorize drilling pads, roads and production site traffic in its own best interests, and the federal land manager would continue to manage whatever is available for other uses.

As one example of a state pursuing its own interest exclusively involves the citizens in Rangely. They are currently being exposed to ozone concentrations above the health standards, partially due to hydrocarbon emissions from the oil and gas production in the Green River Basin in Utah.

Corrective measures require Utah production wells to install greater emission controls from which they would gain no benefits, and therefore have no interest in installing. The recent Frederic, Colorado, pipeline leak and house explosion is an example of environmental and safety problems resulting from the administration by multiple and under-funded agencies and having blurred lines of responsibility with our nation's pipelines.

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This oil and gas is owned by all American citizens, not just the citizens of the producing states. This bill would redirect the royalties from the federal treasury to only those producing states, not all the citizens.

The federal land multi-use provisions and environmental protections, and the requirement for a reasonable financial return have already been eroded through the 2005 Energy Policy Act and are poised to be further eroded through this bill.

This bill is another example of an attempt by special interests, in this case the oil and gas industry, to take advantage of the American citizens/taxpayers who own and have a much broader interest in our federal lands and resources than just oil and gas production. It is time for us to encourage our federal representatives, who on the West Slope is Rep. Scott Tipton, and as a Colorado bill co-sponsor, Rep. Doug Lamborn, to look after the interests of all us citizens and vote against this bill.

Rodger Steen

Western Colorado Congress

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