COVID-19: No Time to Attack Public Lands

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Pushing “energy dominance” now is robbing the future and from taxpayers today.

The COVID-19 crisis has a way of focusing priorities. So it is quite troubling that the Trump administration priority is taking advantage of the pandemic to implement a pro-polluter agenda that threatens to make energy development the dominant use of our public lands. We need to be bringing people together to beat this common foe not picking fights, which is exactly what the administration is doing with these types of actions.

The Trump administration is moving to turn Colorado’s North Park — headwaters to the Platte — into an oil and gas field.

COVID-19 is focusing our priorities on what’s important now, and what we need for the future. Many are asking about where we are going and about how we need to rebuild: To be better prepared, to be more resilient, to build a society that can endure.

But the course the Trump administration is pursuing is anything but. Recklessly handing over hundreds of thousands of acres of our public lands to oil and gas leases, for instance, is bad for America now and it’s bad for our future. It’s taking from taxpayers today and does little to build prosperity for tomorrow.

Oil and gas was already hurting and in severe financial duress before the coronavirus hit. If public funds are to be spent, we should focus on making workers whole and better prepared for what’s next, not to rescue a failing industry. And certainly we must not bail out oil and gas at the expense of our core assets–like our public lands, our wildlife, our clean water, and our climate.

Leasing public lands–in places like the North Fork Valley, or the Rio Grande National Forest, or in North Park–to oil and gas companies when the commodity is next to worthless is basically giving away our prized natural capital at below-fire sale prices. It’s a rip-off for taxpayers of the highest order.

Oil and gas drilling, fracking, development and production is a disruptive activity. All too often, once the mineral wealth has been stripped away, a hazardous mess is left behind for the public to clean up.

We don’t know how much–or how little–fossil fuel in the ground will be worth as a commodity down the road. Maybe it will pencil out better for industry after all this passes, although a lot of analysts think the decline is structural and long-term, and the climate imperative demands those fossil fuels mostly stay put. In any case, we can be sure the public lands themselves and the ecological services they perform will remain deeply treasured by Coloradans for decades to come, and ever more critical to our well-being: but only if left intact. Expanding oil and gas leasing and development now is just foolhardy.

Colorado’s public lands provide vital functions and essential services, such as cleaning our air and acting as carbon sinks, safeguarding genetic reservoirs in a time of biodiversity collapse and wildlife habitat in a time of species decline, as water source areas in a drying West, and as hunting and recreation lands with demand rising.

The public value of these functions and services will only increase. We should not trade the private gain that might be gotten from a glutted, devalued, risky commodity of dubious benefit, for an increasingly scarce, and vital, portfolio of public wealth that we know we need.

Coronavirus is a reset. We should take stock of what is important, what we want to bring forward. It’s a chance to not only focus on, but to take a reckoning of, our priorities. What will a sustainable economic and ecological future look like? It should not be a time to simply reboot the status quo, nor to simply award the future to whomever has the richest lobbyists.

 

3 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    Even conservative groups (Taxpayers for Common Sense, Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship) have heavily criticized the continuing give-a-ways to big energy. In a time of oil glut and greatly diminished demand, no need to continue leasing until demand picks up; and then big energy should develop what they already got. These days, I”m getting about “4 days to the gallon.”

    We could see it coming early in the Trump administration when the first attempt to roll-back the Obama methane rule happened. As I recall, the late John McCain, Murkowski, Collins were the only three Republican senators to just say no, stalling an early Trump/Zinke give-a-way for a while.

  2. kwtree says:

    How are our representatives voting on leasing public lands to energy companies? I could research it,  but you probably know. Are any of them persuadable? Tipton and Gardner both like to paint themselves green.

    Another fine diary, PK.

  3. PKolbenschlag says:

    They're primarily made as administrative decisions and there is not a lot elected leaders can do – oversight, letters, statements. demanding documents, etc. A president could set new priorities and Congress could change the underlying laws. 

    Sen. Bennet and CO Sen Donovan and Rep McCluskie have all weighed in on the North Fork Valley Trump Drill Everywhere plan in opposition. 

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