Energy bill would pry open public lands


Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, "Two decades of hard work, plowed under."

The energy bill, which is currently stalled in Congress but likely to be resurrected early this year, would put major emphasis on public-lands energy development:

It creates the Office of Federal Energy Project Coordination within the White House. That office would assist federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management "in their efforts to expedite their review of permits" and "accelerate the completion of energy-related projects."

It establishes a "Federal Permit Streamlining Pilot Project" for Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.

It directs the U.S. Geological Survey to reassess "restrictions or impediments" to energy development on public lands, including delays in granting leases and restrictions on leases that are approved.

It gives the BLM only 10 days to decide whether to grant a drilling application once it has been deemed complete.

It codifies in public law the requirement that federal offices prepare an extensive document, called a Statement of Adverse Energy Impact, when they reject energy projects (HCN, 9/2/02: Bush’s energy plan).

It exempts hydraulic fracturing fluid — which is used in oil and gas drilling and can include diesel fuel and antifreeze ingredients — from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act (HCN, 10/27/03: Gas industry gets cracking).

It exempts oil and gas construction activities — including bulldozing well pads — from regulation under the Clean Water Act.

It allows energy companies to deduct the costs of the environmental analyses that are required for their projects from the royalties they pay to the federal government.

High Country News Classifieds