Oil and Gas Real Estate Agent Helen Hankins at it Again in Thompson Divide

Today, the Colorado Bureau of Land Management State Director Helen Hankins’ office announced it will extend the life of about two dozen oil and gas leases acquired by SG Interests and Ursa Resources Group in Colorado’s Thompson Divide area. These leases were set to expire this year because leaseholders had failed to conduct any meaningful development in 10 years. Dir. Hankins’ move runs contrary to stated goals by the Obama administration that oil and gas companies develop leases or that land be returned to the public. SG Interests and Ursa did not have to pay for the lease extension and continue to hold the leases for speculative purposes.

Ellynne Bannon, The Checks and Balances Project western energy lands program manager released the following statement:

“Once again, Colorado BLM Director Hankins is showing what a great real estate agent she is for oil and gas companies She’s ignoring the will of the communities around Thompson Divide and putting drinking water, farming and ranching businesses at risk in order to provide another freebie to oil and gas companies. Hankins’ actions represent exactly what she shouldn’t do as a steward of the public’s land and water.”

Background facts:

  • Director Hankins has a long track record of ignoring public concerns and putting communities at risk. Earlier this year, Hankins proposed drilling right next to Mesa Verde National Park and Dinosaur National Monument – including parcels next to a visitor center and park entrances. Hankins also re-offered highly controversial drilling leases in the midst of Denver Metro’s drinking water supplies and the agricultural North Fork Valley.
  • Director Hankins’ actions are out of step with President Obama and the Department of Interior’s policy on leases not in production – which is essentially “use it or lose it.” Currently, 21 million of the total 37 million acres in federal BLM lands leased for oil and gas drilling are not in production or exploration. The oil and gas industry also holds 7,000 idle drilling permits on federal lands.
  • A 2012 analysis found that that hunting, fishing, grazing, and recreation activities in the Thompson Divide support nearly 300 jobs and $30 million a year in economic value. Yet, Dir. Hankins seems intent on jeopardizing these jobs and revenue stream by extending controversial leases in the Divide, where a large local constituency relies upon recreation, ranching and hunting – and clean water and air – for their livelihoods.

Babbitt lays out vision for balanced approach to energy development and conservation

Former Interior Secretary Babbitt speaks at the National Press Club outlining a balanced approach to public lands use.

Former Interior Secretary Babbitt speaks at the National Press Club outlining a balanced approach to public lands use.

Today Former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt outlined a vision for balanced public land management in a speech at the National Press Club.

Secretary Babbitt urged President Obama to permanently protect one acre of public lands – potentially as a national park, wilderness area, or national monument – for every one acre of our public lands leased to the oil and gas industry. Doing so places the conservation of our public lands on equal ground with energy development and will address concerns about the economic impact of oil and gas drilling on industries that depend upon public lands.

Ellynne Bannon, western lands program manager for the Checks and Balances Project offered the following comment on Babbitt’s remarks:

“Secretary Babbitt’s speech laid out a common-sense approach for how to use our public lands, one that threads the needle between energy development and conservation. We need state BLM directors to adopt Sec. Babbitt’s suggestions. No state better demonstrates why we need a new vision than Colorado, where State BLM Director Helen Hankins has acted more like a real estate agent for oil and gas companies instead of a responsible land use manager. She’s made decisions that have run roughshod over the concerns and livelihoods of farmers, ranchers, businesses, and land owners with her drill-first, ask questions later approach.”

According to a recent analysis by The Wilderness Society, Dir. Hankins’ policies have resulted in protests against 85 percent of Colorado leases in fiscal year 2012, compared to 33 percent throughout the rest of the Rocky Mountain region.

Regrettably, many in Congress share Hankins’ disregard for the multiple uses of public lands. Here are a few facts about public land use in the United States:

  • The 112th Congress was the first since World War II not to protect a single new acre of public land as a park, wilderness area, or national monument.
  • The United States is losing an area of open space the size of Rhode Island to development every year.
  • In the past four years, the oil and gas industry has leased more than 6 million acres of public lands, compared with only 2.6 million acres permanently protected.

Secretary Babbitt’s proposal would ensure that our nation’s public lands and the communities that depend on them are protected for generations to come.

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 congressmen continue putting donors before families

Matt Garrington, Denver-based co-director of The Checks and Balances Project, offered the following statement and facts regarding today’s markup of three bills sponsored by Colorado House Republicans that would create more giveaways to the oil and gas industry: H.R. 4381, H.R. 4382 and H.R. 4383.

“Reps. Doug Lamborn, Scott Tipton, and Mike Coffman should have been cast in the Three Stooges remake, because they certainly know how to put on a show for Big Oil.

“Unfortunately, the legislation introduced today is no laughing matter. These bills would cut the public out of controversial decisions on public lands and allow industry to skirt clean air and water protections.

“Politicians should stop joking and get serious about America’s energy future. We should be ending special tax breaks to Big Oil and reinvesting those funds in American energy solutions such as high tech vehicles, requiring oil and gas from public lands and water to stay in America, and cracking down on Wall Street oil speculation.”

WHY THESE BILLS ARE HANDOUTS TO BIG OIL

H.R. 4382, Sponsored by Rep. Coffman (CO-06)

– $198,300[1] in career oil and gas contributions

  • Increases oil and gas company speculation on public lands by requiring the Interior Department to lease at least 25 percent of lands nominated for leasing by the oil and gas industry each year.
  • Ignores the fact that 56% of oil and gas leases – covering 20.8 million acres – lay idle.
  • Prohibits the 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 other stakeholders.

H.R. 4383, Sponsored by Rep. Lamborn (CO-05)

– $137,962[2] in career oil and gas contributions

  • Puts arbitrary deadlines on the permit approval process, especially given the fact that the Bureau of Land Management (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 effectively cutting the public, state and local governments, and stakeholders wishing to challenge unwise and controversial energy projects.
  • Ignores the fact that industry has failed to develop 6,500 unused drilling permits[3] on federal lands and a total of 7,000 unused drilling permits for both federal and Native American lands.

H.R. 4381, Sponsored by Rep. Tipton (CO-03)

– $113,600[4] in career oil and gas contributions

  • Mandates the Interior Department to develop a new energy development plan every four years – but in doing so may actually set the table against renewable energy by locking-in lands currently available for leasing.
  • Makes energy development the highest use of the land no matter the consequences to scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resource, and archeological values.
  • While the bill appears to be “balanced,” it actually requires BLM to “take all necessary actions” to facilitate energy development on the public lands; thus, when viewed as part of the Lamborn and Coffman package, it would roll back oil and gas safeguards and allow oil and gas companies to run roughshod on public lands despite impacts to air quality, water quality, and wildlife habitat.

FACTS ABOUT AMERICAN ENERGY DEVELOPMENT

  • Oil production hit an 8-year high[5] in 2011.
  • Natural gas production was at an all-time high[6].

Drilling activity reached its highest level[7]under the Obama administration than at any point since the Reagan administration.

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.

Oil speculation hurting Americans and raising the price at the pump

Today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee are holding a hearing on oil speculation and its impact on high gas prices. This February, Forbes, using Goldman Sachs analysis, found that Wall Street speculation was adding more than $23 to the price of crude or as much as $0.56 per gallon at the pump. ExxonMobil’s CEO Rex Tillerson stated that there was no issue with supply in demand and cited Iran rhetoric and market response as reason for the run-up.

Checks and Balances Project Co-Director Matt Garrington had this to say on Leader Pelosi’s hearing:

It’s high time that Congress crack down on oil speculation and how it drives up the price at the pump. Leader Pelosi should be commended for taking on Big Oil and Wall Street on behalf of American families.

The American Petroleum Institute, Western Energy Alliance, and the politicians bought-and-paid-for by oil companies continue to lie to the public about the cause of high gas prices. Those accusations haven’t been able to survive the light of day. An Associated Press study showed that oil production has no effect on gas prices. In fact, some refineries are actually cutting back on production arguing that today’s high prices are not enough to make additional production profitable.

Four years ago we saw Wall Street’s greed decimate the housing market and our economy. When it comes to oil speculation, we need more accountability to prevent Wall Street gamblers from raising energy prices and hurting the pocketbooks of Americans.

Cracking down on Wall Street gamblers is an important step to addressing high energy costs.

Key facts regarding American oil production:

Lamborn bill protects taxpayer handouts to oil shale companies

Amendments to protect American jobs and water fail

The following is a quote from Denver-based Checks and Balances Project co-director Matt Garrington with three need-to-know facts regarding HR 3408.

“Today, House Natural Resources Committee Republicans voted against American workers, American families and reducing our national deficit. They voted in favor of another government handout to billion-dollar oil companies.

“Republicans on House Natural Resources Committee botched Rep. Lamborn’s oil shale legislation hearing, which showed just how ridiculous the bill is. In two hours, the committee majority voted down guaranteeing oil shale technology to be American-made; ensuring that oil shale extraction won’t harm water supplies for municipalities and agriculture, and requiring commercial oil shale to be a proven revenue generator before handing over 2 million acres of public land for speculation.

“House Republicans did manage to preserve taxpayer handouts for oil companies by giving away oil shale at bargain basement rates, undermining Speaker Boehner’s goal of raising transportation funds.”
 
About HR 3408, the PIONEERS Act:

  1. Rep. Lamborn’s bill would hand over 2 million acres of public lands for oil shale speculation and mandate commercial leasing on 125,000 acres of public lands by 2016, even though the oil industry has said, on the record, that it will be at least until 2020 before they know whether commercial oil shale is even possible.
  2. Despite claims that the legislation was changed to address new subsidies to the oil industry, the legislation would set bargain basement royalty rates for oil shale speculation. On its face, the bill codifies the 2008 Bush-era oil shale regulations which sets royalty rates at 5 percent (compared to a rate of 12.5 percent for onshore oil and gas and 18.75 percent for offshore oil). Lower royalties means less revenue to the federal treasury and less revenue for local governments, who need the funds to offset the associated costs of energy development such as new roads, utility lines, schools, and fire and police services.
  3. The BLM estimated that industrial scale oil shale development could require as much as 150 percent of the amount of water the Denver Metro Area consumes each year. With western waters such as the Colorado River already overtaxed, there simply might not be enough water to facilitate oil shale development.
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