Energy illusions

A new report seems to show that more land is off-limits to energy exploration, but appearances can be deceiving

  • SOURCE: U.S. BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT

 

This fall, when the U.S. Bureau of Land Management published an inventory of gas and oil available for drilling on public lands, the industry raised a stink. Compared to a similar 2003 report, the new inventory appeared to say that huge quantities of gas and oil had been put off-limits by government regulation.

The oil and gas industry pointed to the report, known officially as the Energy Policy and Conservation Act PHASE II Report, as proof that restrictions on leasing and drilling should be eased. There’s plenty of gas and oil under public lands, said Mike Linn of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, but the “resources are not accessible because regulatory barriers and antiquated policies prevent the responsible development of these resources.” Indeed, at first glance it seemed that additional restrictions had been put on 62 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in just three years.

But many of the numbers — and apparent differences between the two reports — result from subtle shifts in categorization and report methodology, not from actual changes. For example, the 2006 report excluded proved reserves — oil and gas that is known to exist and be recoverable — and included as “restrictions” limits on precisely where on a specific parcel a company can place a drill pad.

“(The 2006) report is a paper exercise and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) exercise. It’s not representative of what’s actually happening on the ground,” says Steve Belinda, a former wildlife biologist at the Pinedale, Wyo., BLM office who is now energy policy initiative manager for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. Generally, the gas and oil available in the Rocky Mountain West for drilling in 2003 is still available today. In some cases, such as in the heavily drilled Paradox and San Juan basins in the Four Corners region, more land is now open under the least restrictive categorization, standard lease terms, than in 2003.

Of the five Western basins included in both reports, the Greater Green River Basin contains the most oil and gas. High Country News took a close look at what changed, and what didn’t, in regulation of the basin between 2003 and 2006. As is shown below, some areas that were once off-limits have been opened up, and other apparent changes between the 2003 and 2006 reports turn out not to be changes at all.

 

The author is an HCN intern.
High Country News Classifieds
  • WATER POLICY ANALYST WITH WRA (BOULDER)
    Position Summary: Western Resource Advocates seeks a passionate Water Policy Analyst with knowledge of western water issues to join our Healthy Rivers Team to strengthen...
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST
    9+ acre inholding. Passive solar strawbale off the grid and next to the Continental Divide Trail in ponderosa pine/doug fir forest at 7400.
  • HIRING BEARS EARS EDUCATION CENTER DIRECTOR
    Conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, Utah is hiring an Education Center Director to oversee the operation of the Bears Ears Education Center....
  • PROGRAM MANAGER, SUSTAINING FLOWS
    Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • PROGRAM ASSOCIATE - VERDE RIVER EXCHANGE
    Verde River Exchange - Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • CODE COMPLIANCE OFFICER
    Teton County Planning & Building is hiring! Our ideal candidate is a team-player, a problem-solver, pays attention to detail, and can clearly communicate technical material...
  • ARCHITECTURE DRAFTSPERSON/PROJECT MANAGER
    Studio Architects is seeking a full time Architectural drafts-person/project manager with1-3 years of experience to join our firm. At Studio Architects our mission is to...
  • ASSISTANT MANAGER/TRAINEE, COLORADO RANCH
    needed for 16,000+ acre conservation property in south central Colorado. Qualified candidate would have experience working on a ranch or wilderness property, general forestry/fire management...
  • FARM HAND &/OR NANNY IN ESCALANTE
    Nanny for 18-mnth-old. Yearly salary, vacation, health insurance. Spanish/other foreign-language native spkr prefrrd.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Washington Association of Land Trusts seeks an ED to build on WALTs significant success & to lead the association to new levels of achievement. See...
  • BEAUTIFUL CUSTOM STRAWBALE HOME IN WESTERN COLORADO!
    Secluded, energy efficient Southwestern home on 40 wooded acres. Broker - Rand Porter - United Country Real Colorado Properties. 970-261-1248, $425K
  • FORMER RETREAT CENTER/CONSERVATION PROPERTY FOR SALE
    57 acres in Skull Valley, AZ, 17 miles from Prescott, year-round creek, swimming holes, secluded canyon, hiking/meditation trails, oaks, pines, garden, greenhouse. House, office building,...
  • ARIZONA PUBLIC LANDS ORGANIZER
    Title: Public Lands Organizer About the Arizona Wildlife Federation (AWF) The AWF is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, inspiring, and assisting individuals and organizations...
  • HISTORIC RANCH HOME W/ 20 ACRES
    Historic 1893 Ranch Headquarters. 4 Bdrm, 3.5 Ba, 4000 ft2. Remodeled 2002. Includes 2 studio apts, stables, arena, workshop, 5 RV hookups. Chirachua & Peloncillo...
  • VICE PRESIDENT OF RETAIL OPERATIONS
    The Vice President of Retail Operations will provide overall leadership and accountability for purchasing, product development, merchandising planning, visual merchandising, retail operational excellence, oversight and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners seeks an experienced fundraiser with excellent communication and organizational skills.
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    position in Phoenix with the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy.
  • ROADS END CABIN NEAR YELLOWSTONE
    Vaulted ceilings, two fireplaces, two bedrooms, loft, jetted tub, wifi. Forest, mountain views. Wildlife. [email protected]
  • ACCOUNTING CLERK
    Our director is seeking to employ the services of an Accounting Clerk to assist with various accounting and administrative tasks. This is a great opportunity...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMUNITY RADIO PROJECT
    Community Radio Project, Cortez, CO (KSJD & the Sunflower Theatre). Visit ksjd.org and click on the Executive Director search link. CRP is an EOE.