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Why does Ken Salazar hate our economy? Update: Western Energy Alliance calls for reinstating oil leases

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By Michelle Malkin  •  July 20, 2010 09:09 AM


Loathsome cowboy.

When last we visited with the Interior Department’s Job Destroyer-in-Chief, he was shoving his newly “revised” offshore drilling moratorium down America’s throat.

Today, let’s talk about what he’s doing in Utah to screw over onshore development and the economy.

Last week, Salazar defended pulling 77 oil leases granted in the final days of the Bush administration. Salazar’s inspector general concluded that there was no evidence of any rush to auction off the parcels– as baselessly claimed by environmental groups and Salazar himself. In fact, the leases were granted only after seven full years of rigorous study and debate. (Read the pdf of the report here.)

That makes two Salazar job-destroying bans based off bogus eco-claims. Uintah County UT officials have sued the Interior Department over the rescinded leases, which have cost the state untold millions of dollars and countless jobs in a tough economy. The Deseret News in Utah blasts the reckless consquences of Team Obama’s eco-pandering:

An Associated Press report last year estimated the federal government was holding nearly $100 million that has been paid for energy leases in the Rocky Mountains that are being delayed for one reason or another. Most are the subject of environmental protests or lawsuits, which seem to be filed as a matter of course. While Salazar at least returned the money that was paid for the 77 leases he rescinded, one would think an administration concerned about jobs in a tough economy would do more to speed up a process that could stimulate local economies as it eased the nation’s energy needs.

As Investor’s Business Daily points out, the onshore ban also gives lie to another Obama administration assertion:

As the job-killing deepwater drilling ban continues offshore, our interior secretary defends an onshore ban imposed in Utah. If we could drill in places like that, maybe oil wouldn’t be gushing a mile under the Gulf of Mexico.

The 64-million-gallon question in the Gulf oil spill is why we were drilling 5,000 feet down in the first place. The administration line, as expressed by the president in his recent Oval Office speech, is that oil resources on land and just offshore are running out. The falsity of that claim can be seen in the battle over 77 oil leases in Utah.

IBD notes that Salazar also halted plans to lease oil shale rights in five Western states “estimated to hold between 1 trillion and 2 trillion (with a ‘t’) barrels of recoverable oil.” These shale resources remain untapped thanks to militant greenies who pay lip service to energy independence while blocking all means of achieving it.

Wyoming is also victim to Obama foot-dragging:

More than $100 million worth of unissued oil and gas leases may finally get acted upon by the Bureau of Land Management. The federal agency said this week that it will soon decide whether the first of the leases across the West will be handed over to drilling companies.

The latest announcement was met with cautious optimism by industry groups because they’ve heard it before. The BLM said last August and again in April that the backlogged leases were about to be issued, according to the Western Energy Alliance.

The backlog has become so pronounced that Wyoming Gov. Freudenthal wrote a letter to Interior Secretary Salazar earlier this year urging action.

BLM Director Bob Abbey said in an interview Wednesday that the BLM will begin making decisions on backlogged federal leases in Wyoming by the end of July.

Salazar continues to undermine transparency. Remember: He has refused to cooperate with public records requests from Congress regarding his post-BP spill decisions. The Deseret News editorial board in Utah also raised concern about how Salazar handled the Interior Department IG’s oil lease report:

An independent investigation conducted by Interior’s Office of Inspector General, belatedly released last week, says that, essentially, is a bunch of hogwash. No evidence exists to support Salazar’s contention. In fact, the leases were auctioned after seven years of rigorous study, and no one applied any pressure to get it done before a new president took office. If anyone put ideology ahead of study, it apparently was the new administration, not the old.

Also significant is the fact that this latest report was made public only after a Uintah County commissioner was tipped to its contents and filed a request through the federal Freedom of Information Act. It is dated Dec. 28, 2009. The delay was an oversight, according to an Interior Department official. It should be noted that an earlier study conducted by the Department of the Interior, which rubber stamped the secretary’s notion of a “flawed” process, was released without anyone having to ask.

Funny how that works.

***

Update:The Western Energy Alliance calls for reinstating the leases:

(Denver) – Western Energy Alliance (formerly IPAMS) today called on Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar to reinstate 77 leases in Utah in light of a Department of Interior (DOI) report showing that the reasons for canceling the leases were unfounded. Although the report was completed seven months ago, it was only released this week following mounting pressure from local Utah officials and the state’s congressional delegation.

“This report from DOI confirms what we’ve been saying all along,” said Kathleen Sgamma, Western Energy Alliance’s Director of Government Affairs. “The 77 leases were improperly withdrawn. Given that the justifications for the withdrawal are incorrect, we hope the Interior Secretary will reinstate these leases and award them to companies who legitimately purchased them at the lease sale.

Contrary to previous DOI claims, the report from the Interior Inspector General confirms that there was nothing nefarious about the lease sale and nothing about the seven year process that preceded the sale was “last minute” or “rushed.” Furthermore, as detailed in the report, all controversial leases near national parks were pulled from the lease sale by BLM after reaching consensus with the National Park Service (NPS).

“This week the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands will hold a hearing on ‘Creating Rural Jobs with America’s Public Lands’, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is holding a Jobs for America Summit. Secretary Salazar could take immediate steps to create energy jobs by reinstating the leases and taking other measures to enable western producers to develop the clean American energy on federal lands that our nation needs to survive,” concluded Sgamma.

Click here to view the Inspector General’s report

Reason Salazar gave for cancelling leases:

“In its last weeks in office, the Bush Administration rushed ahead to sell oil and gas leases at the doorstep of some of our nation’s most treasured landscapes in Utah,” said Secretary Salazar.[1]

What Salazar’s own Inspector General found to be true:

“Moreover, the emails confirmed that updating the RMPs had been an ongoing process for over seven years and that Sierra set June 2008 as the initial target deadline for completion.”

Reason Salazar gave for cancelling leases:

The 77 parcels, which total about 103,225 acres, are all in the vicinity of two National Parks and Dinosaur National Monument.”[2]

What Salazar’s own Inspector General found to be true:

“ The meetings at the field level eventually led to a November 24, 2008 meeting between [Mike] Snyder [Regional Director, Intermountain Region, National Park Service], [Selma] Sierra, [Utah BLM State Director], [Jeff] Rawson, [Associate Utah State Director] and other NPS and BLM personnel. This meeting resulted in a consensus between BLM and NPS concerning what parcels would be deferred from the lease sale and what stipulations and conditions would be placed on included parcels.

Background and Key Facts as confirmed by the DOI report:

* The National Park Service agreed to the leases sold at the December 2008 sale. Prior to the sale, BLM removed 109 parcels of 195,515 acres from the sale in coordination with NPS. BLM removed all parcels adjacent to national parks, leaving only one adjacent to a national monument. With one exception, parcels were miles away from parks, and most tens of miles away.

* Western Energy Alliance has maintained all along that Secretary Salazar’s decision to withdraw the 77 leases and subsequent rhetoric about the decision demonstrate an unfortunate lack of regard for the seven-year public planning process that produced the RMPs upon which the December 2008 lease sale was based.

* The December 2008 lease sale was the result of a comprehensive, seven-year public land management planning process in which everyone – environmental groups, the National Park Service, EPA, other federal and state agencies, and the general public – had ample opportunity to participate.

* The State of Utah, Tribes, federal agencies, local governments, and many citizens who enjoy or depend on these public lands invested seven years of time and resources into the planning process.

* The RMPs appropriately represent a balance of multiple uses from all segments of society and government, not just the single interest of conservation. No new acreage was opened to leasing that was not available under the Clinton Administration, and no lands have fewer environmental protections than before.

* In a letter to Mike Snyder , NPS Regional Director following two days of collaboration between BLM and NPS, Utah State Director Selma Sierra agreed to defer all parcels of concern to the Park Service from the sale and implement additional environmental protections on others, leaving only 132 parcels actually offered for sale to which NPS did not object. [3] Until now, this fact has been overlooked by DOI, including in the report from Deputy Secretary David Hayes that criticized BLM for failing to coordinate with NPS. [4]

* The IG Report includes information on the coordination, citing comments from Mike Snyder, Regional Director, Intermountain Region, National Park Service and Selma Sierra, Utah BLM State Director. The Park Service agreed to the remaining parcels.

[1] Department of the Interior Press Release Secretary Salazar Restores Balance in Controversial Last-Minute Oil and Gas Lease Sale near Utah National Parks, dated February 4, 2009.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Memo to Regional Director, Intermountain Region, National Park Service, from Director, Utah State Office, BLM, dated November 25, 2009, regarding Discussions and Agreements Regarding December 19, 2008 Competitive Oil and Gas Lease Sale of Lands Proximal to Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Dinosaur National Monument. http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/ut/lands_and_minerals/oil_and_gas/december_2008.Par.50809.File.dat/NPS%20letter%2011-25-08%20M.pdf

[4] Report to Secretary Ken Salazar Regarding the Potential Leasing of 77 Parcels in Utah dated June 11, 2009. http://www.doi.gov/utahreport/

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