Updated: Sec. Jewell brings home a trophy from Senate committee hearing

One of the oil industry’s best friends in Congress imploded a standard GOP/industry talking point yesterday when, in the face of Sec. Sally Jewell’s facts, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) admitted that oil production is up on public lands. Watch the exchange!

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Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell showed up at today’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing loaded for bear, and she bagged an Alaskan grizzly.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski started her time by regurgitating often-repeated – and totally flawed – oil and gas industry talking points about oil and gas production on public lands. Sec. Jewell fired back, using actual statistics to point out the truth: onshore oil production on federal lands is at its highest level in more than a decade.

And when Sen. Murkowski, a true politician, tried to change the topic to offshore production, her colleague Sen. Al Franken, and Deputy Secretary of Interior David Hays pointed out that offshore numbers had (appropriately) dipped in the wake of BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf – but that offshore oil production, and offshore drilling and exploratory activity are now back at pre-spill levels and growing.

Unable to dispute cold, hard facts, Sen. Murkowski was forced to acknowledge the truth. And her admission that oil production is up on federal lands demonstrates the need for a more balanced approach between energy development and conservation.

With onshore oil production at its highest level in 10 years, the Obama Administration should adopt an equal ground policy – conserving an acre of land for every acre they lease, consistent with the balanced approach achieved by Presidents such as Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush.

Sec. Jewell pointed out in her testimony that in 2011, recreational visits contributed an estimated $49 billion in economic benefits to local communities. Balancing appropriate energy production with protecting our treasured lands also attracts high-wage businesses and entrepreneurs to Western states – strengthening our economy for future generations.

As oil- and gas-funded politicians in the House and Senate get ready for yet another summer of pushing the same failed giveaways to oil and gas companies they’ve tried before, they’re going to have to deal with the same facts that stopped Sen. Murkowski in her tracks today. It’s tough to lose a top talking point.

A few other facts from Sec. Jewell’s testimony:

  • The amount of producing acreage continues to increase, and was up by about 200,000 acres between 2011-2012.
  • The 2010 onshore leasing reforms resulted in the lowest number of protests in 10 years – fewer than 18 percent of parcels offered in FY 2012 were protested.
  • BLM field offices’ processing and approval time for drilling applications fell by 40 percent between FY 2006 and FY 2012.
  • The Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study, released in December 2012, estimates the number of people that rely on water from the Colorado River Basin could double to nearly 76 million people by 2060.

TRANSCRIPT OF THE EXCHANGE

Sen. Murkowski, opening statement:  “A related concern is the rate of falling production on federal lands. It’s true that our nation is in the midst of an historic oil and gas boom, but it’s also true that production on federal lands is in trouble. Contrary to some of the statements of the rhetoric we’ve heard, oil production from the federal estate actually fell 5% last year after falling by even more than that in 2011. Natural gas production from the same federal areas meanwhile is in virtual free fall, down 8% last year and down 23% since 2009. The fact of the matter is that America’s energy boom is happening in spite of federal policies that stymie our production. We should be opening new lands to development, making sure the permits are approved on time, and preventing regulation and litigation from locking down our lands, and if anyone’s looking for a place to start, I’ll invite you to look to Alaska.”

Sec. Sally Jewel, responding in her testimony and opening statement said: “I want to start with energy, energy onshore. Onshore oil production on federal lands is actually at its highest level in over a decade, the amount of producing acreage continues to increase and I’m very happy, Ranking Member Murkowski, to provide you with some statistics that are a little different than the comments that you just referenced in terms of oil production. I have looked at the leasing reforms that the BLM have put in place, they changed them in 2010. They’ve actually had the lowest number of protests on lease sales in ten years, so we are making progress there, and I know the team is working hard on the time for permitting approval of new projects. That will be facilitated by automation. Sequestration has impacted that a bit but we’re still committed to getting that done….and now there are more deepwater rigs operating in the Gulf of Mexico than there were prior to the deepwater horizon spill.”

Sen. Murkowski, following Wyden’s first round of questions: “but I did just want to put a statement on the record, that, you had noted in your opening statement that oil production from federal onshore lands is at its highest level in over a decade, you had noted that perhaps our commentaries differed, I had noted that oil production from the federal estate actually fell 5% and the reference there, and I think it is important to just give some of the numbers here very briefly because I think it can be confusing. Federal onshore production was at 89.5 million barrels back in 2003, its gone up to 108.7 million in 2012, so you do have a substantial increase there, but it’s not the full picture, and that was my point. Because on federal offshore production we’ve seen that fall from 532.7 million barrels in ’03, to 438.6 million barrels in 2012, so what we’ve got is federal onshore production which rose by about 20 million barrels, and federal offshore production fell by 100 million barrels, more than five times the onshore increase. So I think that it’s important that when we’re talking about this we look at the full picture so if your numbers are different than mine, I’d be happy to share them.”

Sen. Franken, rebuttal: “Can I ask, did the moratorium after the BP oil spill… isn’t that really what caused that dip? I mean, (with laughter) we had a huge thing happen, and so there was a moratorium after that. Is that ok if I ask that of Mr. Hays?”

Deputy Sec. Hays: “Yes, Senator. It is true that oil production in the Gulf did decline because of the safety issues that arose and the need to upgrade our safety standards. The good news is that EIA recently reported a very strong upward trend now, in the Gulf. The Secretary mentioned a major discovery, there have been ten major new discoveries. There are now more than fifty rigs drilling in the offshore, lease sales are very strong that we’ve had and are having in the central Gulf and the western Gulf, so we expect to be back to where we were and further, but there certainly was a time that we did a pause, and increase the safety standard and change the way we did business and that did effect we believe temporarily in the offshore.

Sen. Franken: “I just wanted to clarify that.”

Western Energy Alliance spokesperson wins this week’s Pinocchio Award

The oil industry is once again trying to re-write history. Kathleen Sgamma, spokesperson for industry mouthpiece Western Energy Alliance, claimed in a news story that more lands were put under protection than drilled, during President George W. Bush’s Administration.

A quick review of the amount of lands leased for drilling compared to the amount of lands permanently protected under President George W. Bush’s Administration shows that Sgamma’s claim is false. The Bush administration opened roughly 29 million acres, an area the size of Ohio, to the oil and gas industry for lease. On the other hand, the administration only permanently protected 746,373 acres from drilling.

Kathleen – If you do the math, that means nearly 39 times more land was opened to oil and gas drilling than was protected, during the protected by the Bush (43) Administration. Even if you add in land protected by Congress during this time, his administration still opened up 7.5 times more land to oil and gas drilling than it protected.

Source: Center for American Progress

Colorado oil production up nearly 50 percent since 2010

According to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) oil production exceeded 48 million barrels in 2012, a 49 percent increase over 2010 levels.

The 2012 oil production levels are the highest since 1961 and are in increase of 24 percent over 2011 levels.

cogcc_oil_production_graph

According to COGCC gas production reached its highest level since 1952.

cogcc_gas_production_graph

Industry and allies twist facts on U.S. oil and gas production report

Price and geology have incentivized oil and gas companies to drill on nonfederal lands in recent years.  Yet this fact hasn’t stopped industry group Western Energy Alliance (WEA) and Congressmen Ed Whitfield (R-KY.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, from mischaracterizing a recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report on fuel production.

“Once again, House Republicans are spinning tall tales about oil and gas production. Technology, geology and price are the big drivers that determine where and how much industry drills. The industry is following the oil and no amount of rhetoric changes that fact.” said the Checks and Balances Project’s Ellynne Bannon.

Key facts from the recent CRS report that refute claims made by House Republicans and Western Energy Alliance:

  • “Any increase in production of natural gas on federal lands is likely to be easily outpaced by increases on non-federal lands, particularly because shale plays are primarily situated on nonfederal lands and is where most of the growth in production is projected to occur.”
  • “The big shale gas plays are primarily on non-federal lands and are attracting a significant portion of investment for natural gas development.” – pg. 1
  • “But having more lands accessible may not translate into higher levels of production on federal lands, as industry seeks out the most promising prospects and highest returns.” – Pg. 3
  • “After a lease has been obtained, either competitively or non-competitively, an application for a permit to drill (APD) must be approved for each oil and gas well…in 2006 it took the BLM an average of 127 days to process an APD, while in 2011 it took BLM 71 days. In 2006, the industry took an average of 91 days to complete an APD, but in 2011, industry took 236 days.  – Pg. 8

#NYFrackingScandal Hits Cuomo Administration: Newly Disclosed Documents Show Conflicts of Interest

Photo from NYPost.com

With only two days before the expected release of New York’s Environmental Impact Assessment on fracking (also known by the industry term hydraulic fracturing), Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration is at the center of a new conflict of interest scandal regarding two of his top aides.  Today, seven groups requested the Albany County District Attorney General David Soares investigate the Cuomo Administration’s conflicts of interest surrounding two staffers that hold “key positions in New York’s decision over whether to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing.”

There are looming questions on the impartiality of Lawrence Schwartz and Robert Hallman, two top Cuomo Administration officials, who have significant influence on the Governor’s fracking decision. New documents obtained by DeSmogBlog through New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) show that Mr. Schwartz has significant stock holdings in companies that stand to benefit from fracking in New York state, and that Mr. Hallman failed to make specific financial disclosures, raising questions about his objectivity on the issue.

The two top aides, Lawrence Schwartz, Secretary to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, and Robert Hallman, Deputy Secretary for Energy and Environment, have significant oversight within the Cuomo Administration on the issue of hydraulic fracturing. According to the groups’ letter, Mr. Schwartz supervises all state deputies and commissioners, including Mr. Hallman and the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation – the agency that is tasked with studying high-volume hydraulic fracturing and developing the state’s policy regarding this extraction technique. Mr. Hallman is the state’s highest gubernatorial staff member who has oversight over the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

According to financial disclosure documents, Schwartz has substantial holdings in companies engaged in shale gas development, including ConocoPhillips, Occidental Petroleum and ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil alone holds 43,000 acres of leases for fracking in New York under its subsidiary XTO Energy Inc. Schwartz also identified “Williams Co.,” apparently a reference to “The Williams Companies Inc.,” a pipeline company that plans to build a $750 million pipeline through the southern portion of New York.

Mr. Hallman failed to specify his stock holdings in his financial disclosure forms, which seems to violate (at the very least) the spirit of N.Y. Pub. Off. § 73-a. The law states that “Public officials are required to list “EACH SOURCE” of income greater than $1,000 and “the type and market value of securities… from each issuing entity” greater than $1,000,” according to the letter from seven groups to District Attorney General Soares. Instead of disclosing each source, Mr. Hallman listed “various common stock” and “various corporate bonds.” His lack of disclosure should serve as a red flag and calls into question his impartiality on the state’s fracking decision.

Furthermore, records obtained via the FOIL request indicate that fracking companies have recently worked directly with Cuomo Administration officials.  XTO Energy Inc, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, wrote to Mr. Schwartz and Mr. Hallman requesting changes to the state’s draft regulations on fracking in August 2012. And, The Williams Companies communicated with Mr. Hallman regarding natural gas pipelines twice in the summer of 2012.

New York state law states that public officials should avoid personal investments that could “create substantial conflict between his duty in the public interest and his private interest.” Both Mr. Schwartz and Mr. Hallman may have conflicts of interest that violate this standard.

Today during a press conference in Albany, Alex Beauchamp, Food & Water Watch Northeast Region Director, said, “We are outraged to discover that Governor Cuomo’s top aide is so heavily invested in oil and gas companies. And further, that he made these investments during the very timeframe this administration has been considering whether to allow fracking in New York. Clearly, this administration must not allow fracking to move forward under this cloud of scandal.”

Learn more at NYFrackingScandal.com.

Latino voters in Colorado care deeply about protecting water, air from potential oil shale development

Note: This post is a write up of a poll done by Latino Decisions

Colorado has become one of the most contested states in 2012, and Michael Bennet’s 2010 Senate win came by less than 30,000 votes.  Latino voters – at an estimated 12% of the electorate – have become one of the most crucial voting blocs. Today, Latino Decisions releases new poll results on behalf of Nuestro Rio regarding Latino voter attitudes towards environmental issues, including potential oil shale development, and protection of rivers and drinking water.

Potential oil shale development is a contentious issue in Colorado. Oil shale is not oil, but a rock containing kerogen which can be melted to 700 degrees over months or years to produce oil. No commercial oil shale operations currently exist in the United States. Little-to-no research has probed Latino voters’ attitudes on this complex issue. Advocates of oil shale have argued it represents an opportunity to develop domestic oil and create jobs. Opponents have countered that it is creates pollution and could damage the environment, including the Colorado River.  But where do Latino voters stand on this issue? Polls have shown that job-creation is a top issue of concern among Latinos.  However, the results released today suggest that for Colorado Latinos, protecting the environment is also an issue of significant concern.  When it comes to evaluating candidates, by a 3-1 margin, Latino voters say they prefer a candidate who will ensure environmental protections before oil shale production moves forward.

According to Nita Gonzalez, Nuestro Rio Coordinator for Colorado, “The health of the Colorado River depends on a smart approach to the conflict between energy and water demands. In our poll, we found that by an overwhelming majority – 70 percent to 17 percent – Colorado Latino’s favor a smart approach to oil shale that ensures the protection of western water.”

To get to this complex issue, and present both sides of the debate, Latino Decisions asked Latino voters in Colorado the following question: For 100 years in western states, oil companies have attempted to melt a rock known as oil shale into oil by superheating it to 700 degrees or more over a period of months or even years. Oil companies say this process will help lead us to energy independence and create jobs. Critics say oil shale mining could require enormous amounts of electricity and billions of gallons of water, create toxic pollution, and put western waters such as the Colorado River at serious risk. The federal government is considering a plan for oil shale development which would require companies to prove the economic viability of oil shale and that it can be produced in a way that will not harm water and air resources in Colorado and other states. 

Do you favor or oppose a plan that would require oil companies to complete successful research of oil shale technologies and know its viability and potential impacts to western water prior to commercial development on public lands?


Next, respondents were asked to evaluate two candidates who had competing views on the need for oil shale regulations, and then pick which candidate they would support.  Let’s say there are two candidates running for office, and one candidate supported a proposal to require oil companies to prove that oil shale is feasible and won’t harm western water before commercially occurs on public lands — and the other candidate said oil companies should be able to get started developing oil shale right away to create jobs and energy.  Which candidate are you more likely to support?

“Not only do Latinos agree in principle that we should put some safe guards on oil shale, but are Latinos have told us they are more likely to support a candidate that favors protection of our water versus a candidate that supports a headlong rush into oil shale speculation by an incredible margin of 40 percent,” added Nita Gonzalez.

While there are many important issues in 2012 including jobs and the economy, immigration reform, health care and education, this new polling shows that Latino voters in Colorado also care deeply about protecting the environment.  Even when told that some argue oil shale production could create jobs, a strong majority of Latino voters opted for more government regulations to ensure the environment is protected.

When asked how important the protection of rivers, mountains and air in Colorado was an election issue, given all the various important issues on the agenda this year a sizable share of Latino voters, 39% said it was one of the most important issues, and an additional 38% rated environmental protection as “fairly important.”  Only 2% of respondents said it was “not at all important” as an election issue this year.

Finally, Latino voters believe in candidates who will improve the economy and also ensure the protection of natural resources in Colorado. We presented respondents with the following proposition: Let’s say one of the candidates had a plan to improve the economy that you supported, and on the issue of energy and oil the candidate said, quote: “in the West, we know how important water is.  We must protect our waters like the Colorado river.  If an oil company wants to pursue oil shale, it’s just common sense to have them do their homework first, know the feasibility of oil shale, and prove they won’t ruin our beautiful rivers and streams here in Colorado” end quote. Would that statement make you more likely to support the candidate, less likely to support the candidate, or would you not care what they said about energy and oil if you agreed with their plan for the economy?

Full poll results posted here

Poll Details: A total of 400 Latino registered voters in Colorado were interviewed September 29-October 4, 2012 by Latino Decisions for Nuestro Rio. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, at the preference of the respondent, all conducted by bilingual interviewers at Latino Decisions calling center, Pacific Market Research. The survey has an overall margin of error of 4.9% on results that approach a 50/50 distribution. All respondents confirm that they are Hispanic or Latino and currently registered to vote.

Gov. Cuomo: Will you pledge to accept no money from the oil and gas industry for your political campaigns?

The following is a letter from 11 groups calling on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to “Let the science and the facts make the determination, not emotion and not politics” regarding his decision on fracking.  The only way to be sure that Gov. Cuomo is not making a decision based on politics, is for him to sign the following pledge:

I, Governor Andrew Cuomo, pledge to accept no money from the gas industry for any political race I undertake in the next 10 years. This pledge includes a re-­election run for my current office as governor and any presidential run I might make.

I will also order New York state universities to turn away gas industry money of any kind so that any “studies” produced to promote fracking as safe or benign will not have the taint of pay-­for-­play to them.

By signing, Gov. Cuomo can demonstrate to the citizens of New York that his decisions have not been based on corporate influence from big‐moneyed interests. If he doesn’t, how can we be certain?
Below is the letter to the Governor:

July 25, 2012

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Cuomo:

Late last year, you said, “Let the science and the facts make the determination, not emotion and not politics” regarding fracking in New York.1

We applaud you in setting this great standard. Furthermore, we want to help you live by it as you make a final decision on fracking in and around New York State’s water supplies. We imagine this must be very difficult, especially considering the enormous amount of influence Chesapeake Energy and other gas industry lobbyists have in the state. As countless organizations such as New Yorkers Against Fracking and the Checks & Balances Project, a watchdog group, have documented, the gas industry has caused considerable damage in nearby Pennsylvania, including the contamination of drinking water supplies, threats to private property rights and human health, and other negative impacts in communities state-­‐wide.2 3 4 Because of this, we want to suggest a way to instill the maximum amount of public trust in any decisions made in New York State involving hydraulic fracking.

Before you decide to move forward with any decisions pertaining to hydrofracking and shale gas drilling, and before you consider permitting the gas industry an opportunity to damage New York as they have done in Pennsylvania, Wyoming and other states, will you pledge to accept no money from the gas industry for any political race you undertake in the next 10 years? This would include a re-­‐election run for your current office, or a future presidential campaign.

Will you also order New York state universities to turn away oil and gas industry money of any kind so that any “studies” produced to promote fracking as somehow safe or benign will not have the taint of pay-­‐for-­‐play to them?

Please sign the pledge and demonstrate to the citizens of New York that any decisions around hydrofracking have not been based on undue persuasion created by corporate influence from big-­‐moneyed interests. If you don’t, how can we be certain?

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

Advocates for Morris
Damascus Citizens for Sustainability
Friends of Butternuts
NYH2O
Plymouth Friends of Clean Water
Sharon Springs Against Hydrofracking
Stephanie Low Artists, Inc.
Sullivan Area Citizens for Responsible Energy Development (SACRED)
The Checks and Balances Project
The Green Umbrella
University at Buffalo Coalition for Leading Ethically in Academic Research (UB CLEAR)

 
1 New York Times, Millions Spent in Albany Fight to Drill for Gas. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/26/nyregion/hydrofracking-­‐debate-­‐spurs-­‐huge-­‐spending-­‐by-­‐ industry.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all
2 New Yorkers Against Fracking On Explosion At PA Natural Gas Compressor Station. http://nyagainstfracking.org/new-­‐yorkers-­‐against-­‐fracking-­‐speaks-­‐out-­‐on-­‐explosion-­‐at-­‐pa-­‐national-­‐ gas-­‐compressor-­‐station/
 
3 Checks & Balances Project, Shut out and bought out. http://checksandbalancesproject.org/2011/05/02/shut-­‐out-­‐and-­‐bought-­‐out/
4 Checks & Balances Project, Gas patch scientists explain how fracking can permanently contaminate public water supplies. http://checksandbalancesproject.org/2011/05/06/gas-­‐patch-­‐scientists-­‐ explain-­‐how-­‐hydraulic-­‐fracturing-­‐can-­‐permanently-­‐contaminate-­‐public-­‐water-­‐supplies/

Colorado House GOP pander for more oil and gas lobby dollars

Matt Garrington, Co-Director of The Checks and Balances Project, offered the following statement and facts regarding the introduction of Colorado House Republicans’ three bills to give away more of the West to the oil and gas industry: H.R. 4381, H.R. 4382 and H.R. 4383.

“Colorado House Republicans clearly know who is in charge of the U.S. House – Big Oil. It’s painful to watch members of Congress so blatantly pander for oil and gas lobby dollars.

“Instead of pushing legislation that amounts to nothing more than cheap gimmicks and handouts to industry, Rep. Lamborn, Rep. Coffman and Rep. Tipton should offer real solutions to high gas prices.

“If we want to get serious about gas prices, we should end tax breaks to oil and gas companies and reinvest those funds in American energy solutions such as high tech vehicles, the next generation of renewable fuels, and transportation solutions. We should also crackdown on Wall Street oil speculators that artificially increase the price of gas.”

FACTS ABOUT AMERICAN ENERGY DEVELOPMENT

  • Natural gas production was at an all-time high in 2011 at 28,577,562 MMcf
  • Federal public lands leased in FY11 was 38.4 millionacres leased and in production.
  • Drilling permits on federal public lands approved in FY11 was 4,244, outpacing the number of new wells spudded on federal public lands which was 3,260
  • As of January 25, 2012, the oil and gas industry had 6,500 unused drilling permits for western federal lands.
  • Drilling activity reached its highest level under the Obama administration than at any point since the Reagan administration.

FACTS ABOUT COLORADO ENERGY DEVELOPMENT

  • Natural gas production was at an all-time high in 2010 at 1,589,664 MMcf
  • Federal public lands leased in FY11 was 4.38 million acres compared to just 1.47 million acres leased and in production.

Bush administration average: 67
Obama administration average: 60

A LOOK AT THE BILLS

H.R. 4382, Sponsored by Rep. Coffman (CO-06) – $174,800 in oil and gas contributions

  • Increases oil and gas company speculation on public lands by requiring the Interior Department lease at least 25 percent of lands nominated for leasing by the oil and gas industry each year.
  • Ignores the fact that 57% of oil and gas leases – covering 21.6 million acres – lay idle
  • Prohibits Interior Department from making common sense decisions about whether leasing decisions should move forward when conflicts arise with other values such as water, wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreation.
  • Eliminates oil and gas leasing reforms which have reduced conflicts and litigation over drilling, ensured stronger conservation measures are implemented alongside responsible energy development, and provided a seat at the table for local government, outdoor recreation businesses, and the community.

H.R. 4381, Sponsored by Rep. Tipton (CO-03) – $111,600 in oil and gas contributions

  • Mandates the Interior Department to develop a new energy development plan every four years – but sets the table against renewable energy from consideration.
  • Ignores market forces by requiring arbitrary “necessary actions” to facilitate energy development on the public lands.

H.R. 4383, Sponsored by Rep. Lamborn (CO-05) – $137,962 in oil and gas contributions

  • Puts arbitrary deadlines on the permit approval process, especially given the fact that BLM continually issues far more drilling permits than the number of new wells industry drills on federal lands.
  • Establishes a $5,000 administrative fee for protests to leases, permits, and right-of-ways as well as creating arbitrary barriers to judicial review when the public, state and local governments, and others wish to challenge unwise leasing and development decisions.
  • Ignores the fact that industry has failed to develop more than 6,500 drilling permits.

Checks and Balances Project launches accountability campaign for supporters of Rep. Lamborn’s oil shale boondoggle

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

February 22, 2012

Denver – Today, the Checks and Balances Project launched a regional ad campaign to hold members of Congress accountable for their support of Rep. Doug Lamborn’s oil shale legislation, H.R. 3408. The ads link to online videos about Rep. Mike Coffman’s (R-Colo.) and Rep. Scott Tipton’s (R-Colo.) support of the failed energy resource known as oil shale.

Rep. Coffman and Rep.Tipton each twice voted in favor of the oil shale boondoggle. It gives millions of acres of public land to oil companies for oil shale speculation in exchange zero energy, zero revenue and zero jobs.

Prior to the votes, the Congressional Budget Office estimated oil shale would generate zero revenue between 2012 and 2022.

Advertisements will appear on the websites for 13 media outlets such as the Denver Post, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the Aurora Sentinel, and 9news.com. (Full list included below.)

“We respectfully request Reps. Tipton and Coffman to explain how they voted for legislation that was supposed to fund transportation repairs, but which the Congressional Budget Office found would provide zero revenues,” said Colorado-based Checks and Balances Project Co-Director Matt Garrington. “Oil shale is a failed resource, and the legislation which both Coffman and Tipton supported will provide zero funding to fix our nation’s crumbling roads, highways, and bridges. That is irresponsible.”

Oil companies have tried for over a century to generate energy from oil shale, a misnamed rock that contains zero oil. Despite billions in taxpayer subsidies and private investments, the oil industry has failed to create a commercial oil shale industry.

Ironically, the legislation actually creates a new subsidy for oil companies by setting “bargain basement” royalty rates for oil shale, which means less revenue for local governments to address the associated costs of energy speculation such as roads, schools, police, and firefighters.

Many groups have been expressed their concern about Reps. Tipton and Coffman’s support of oil shale:

  • In a radio campaign, Colorado Wildlife Federation raised concerns over Tipton’s opposition to a common sense study of the potential impacts of oil shale development: http://bit.ly/An2A21
  • The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union launched a regional ad campaign in Colorado newspapers to question Tipton’s support of water-intensive oil shale development: http://bit.ly/AESzYl
  • Activists delivered a blank check to Tipton’s Grand Junction office following the introduction of HR 3408: http://bit.ly/x8yYd4
  • Local activists have publicly voiced their concerns over Tipton’s refusal to require a water study prior to oil shale development: http://bit.ly/AA8HNC
  • Local governments voiced concern about how the Lamborn bill locks-in lower royalty revenues which would be used to offset the local impacts of oil shale speculation: http://bit.ly/xE79fN
  • Veterans called on Coffman to support proven clean energy jobs instead of oil shale speculation: http://bit.ly/x3iBAQ

Rep. Coffman and Rep. Tipton voted against an amendment filed by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), which would have struck the oil shale speculation legislation from the highway bill.

The two later voted in favor of the oil shale bill, which hands over two million acres of public land to oil companies for speculation. The bill goes also mandates commercial leasing on 125,000 acres even though a commercial oil shale industry does not exist.

“These ads are part of our ongoing efforts to educate the public on where their members of Congress stand on oil shale speculation,” said Garrington.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Rep. Coffman has taken $145,800 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry. Rep. Tipton has taken $103,600.

The watchdog group Public Campaign recently called on Tipton to return donations from executives at SG Interests. The oil and gas exploration company is being forced to pay a $275,000 fine as part of an antitrust lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The ads follow a national ad campaign the Checks and Balances Project launched last week, ahead of the vote for H.R. 3408.

The Coffman and Tipton oil shale ads will run in the Thornton-Northglenn Sentinel, Aurora Sentinel, Colorado Community Newspapers, Denver Post, 9news.com, Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Vail Daily, Durango Herald, Steamboat Today, and Grand Junction TV station websites KJCT, KKCO, and KREX.

Mike Coffman ad: http://checksandbalancesproject.org/2012/02/21/oilshalefail-coffman/

Scott Tipton ad: http://checksandbalancesproject.org/2012/02/21/oilshalefail-tipton/

30 – 30 – 30

Checks and Balances Project launches Western Lands and Energy Dashboard

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

January 27, 2012

Checks and Balances Project launches
Western Lands and Energy Dashboard

In wake of State of the Union energy debate, watchdog group works to counter claims
by API, Western Energy Alliance

Denver – Today, the Checks and Balances Project launched its Western Lands and Energy Dashboard examining oil and gas development and public lands access in the West.

The dashboard is an impartial counter to the rhetoric of industry lobby groups such as American Petroleum Institute and Western Energy Alliance as well as politicians with deep industry ties as a result of oil and gas campaign contributions.

The dashboard presents the facts and figures of the oil and gas industry and public lands development in a simple and clear way, with links to original sources.

“After the State of the Union address, we saw a pile-on by industry lobbyists and Big Oil politicians to spread misinformation about the health of America’s oil and gas industry,” said Matt Garrington, Denver-based co-director of The Checks and Balances Project. “Our research demonstrates that business is booming for the oil and gas industry, and that those companies continue to underutilize existing access to public land while demanding taxpayer handouts.”

“Last year, under the Obama administration, oil companies reported $104 billion in profits and enjoyed the highest level of drilling activity since the Reagan era. This is the sort of information the oil and gas industry and their supporters in Congress neglect to mention. We want to set the record straight,” continued Garrington.

The dashboard contains a series of slides that focus on specific areas of interest. Every fact in the slides is cited to original sources, including government agencies, industry data, and nonpartisan think tanks.

“The Checks and Balances Project is committed to providing accurate data regarding our nation’s energy production and land use,” said Garrington. “This is why we created the Project, to counter industry spin with cold, hard facts.”

The organization plans to add new research over time and update existing slides as new data becomes available.

Among the key findings are:

  • Drilling activity is at its highest level in 25 years.
  • The oil and gas industry saw windfall profits of $104 billion in the first three quarters of last year, due primarily to a dramatic rise in the price at the pump.
  • The oil and gas industry receives $9.4 billion every year in special tax breaks and subsidies.
  • Over 20 million acres of public lands leased for energy development remain idle.
  • The oil and gas industry has failed to develop 6,500 drilling permits issued by the BLM.
  • The oil and gas drilling industry employed 615,900 people in 2010, adding over 40,000 jobs during President Obama’s first two years in office.
  • The U.S. is now a net exporter of petroleum products for the first time since 1949.

The dashboard can be found at: www.checksandbalancesproject.org/dashboard

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