Tomorrow, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) is bringing two bills before his committee for markup, S. 916 and S. 917. It’s supposed to be a hearing on ways to prevent another Deep Horizon spill and the loss of life and economic and ecological devastation it caused. Also, to determine methods by which America can safely and responsibly assess the petroleum reserves off our coasts.
Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming may very well use this opportunity to attach amendments that will directly attack the drilling reforms Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. In May, Barrasso introduced S. 1027, a bill intended to remove water and air protections and standards for oil and gas companies drilling on public lands. He did this about a week after voting to protect $21 billion in government handouts to the oil and gas industry, against the wishes of 70 percent of Americans.
If Barrasso or any other Big Oil investment on the committee attacks drilling protections they will be presenting the nation with a legislative solution in search of a problem. The oil and gas industry in this country is booming. Last quarter, the top five American oil and gas companies raked in $32 billion in profits – their highest total since 2008. Drilling is back to pre-recession levels and nearing a 20-year high. Oil and drilling companies don’t need any more handouts in either tax dollars or our public lands.
Not only that, but Big Oil is not being prevented from drilling in the west, no matter what Barrasso and his colleagues say. The truth is that the number of available drilling permits is expected to increase 40 percent this year, and oil and gas companies have failed to use more than 7,000 onshore drilling permits. The resources are at their disposal. Oil and gas companies simply don’t have the market imperatives to use them.
So, you might ask, if things are looking so up for Big Oil, why is Sen. Barrasso attacking drilling reforms? The answer is simple: Enough is never enough.
John Barrasso has taken over $300,000 in oil and gas industry contributions in the four years he’s been in the U.S. Senate. That works out to about $75,400 per year, when $47,851 is the median income in Wyoming. So when Big Oil needs its agenda pushed, they know where to go.
So what happens if Barrasso pushes his and Big Oil’s anti-drilling reform agenda?
Well, last winter drilling in rural Wyoming increased ozone pollution to levels violating federal standards 13 times this past winter. And that’s with Sec. Salazar’s protections in place. Imagine if they were gone.
Tomorrow we’ll find out whether or not Sen. Barrasso’s going to make an opportunity to push his corporate sponsors’ agenda.