The Congressional Western Caucus announced last week it will launch an online, Western Caucus University. The caucus claims the point of the new website is to educate the public on “what it means to live and work in the West.” Since the western caucus is comprised of oil- and gas-funded members of Congress who commonly advocate for the oil and gas industry, it’s likely this university’s “curriculum” will include whitewashed information about drilling and fracking.

Indications are already present that the website will be used to promote government handouts of public lands – national parks, monuments, forests, and wildlife areas – to the oil and gas industry, at the expense of agricultural, outdoor recreation, and tourism industries that are economic drivers in the West. Here’s some information we’re willing to bet won’t make it onto the site:

  • The combination of profit, geology and technology are driving oil and gas drilling to private land. 93% of all onshore shale oil and mixed oil and gas plays – the source of the recent oil boom – are found under nonfederal lands. Even in the Rocky Mountain West, where more federal land is located, 89% of the shale oil and mixed oil and gas plays are under nonfederal lands.
  • The Obama Administration has leased 2.5 times more public lands to oil and gas companies than it has protected.
    • In the West, where most federal lands are located, the areas with more than 30% protected federal lands increased jobs by 345%, from 1970 to 2010, compared to 83% job growth in counties with no protected lands.
  • The outdoor recreation industry, which relies heavily on protected lands like national parks, generates $646 billion in spending  each year and 6.1 million American jobs.
  • The Government Accounting Office and industry experts have said oil shale could use up to 140 percent of what Denver Water provides its customers, today.
  • Big Oil was the top campaign contributor to the Congressional Western Caucus co-chairs Rep. Cynthia Lummis ($108,050 – more than double the next biggest contributing industry) and Rep. Steve Pearce ($206,100 – also more than double).

Two questions for Congressional Western Caucus members:

  1. Is this online advocacy paid for with taxpayer dollars?
  1. How much input will oil and gas lobbyists have into what is included in the website?