Here are the top five energy stories the Checks and Balances Project was tracking for the week of June 17th. Stories included a new campaign to put conservation on equal ground with oil and gas drilling; our blog on the oil and gas industry’s new PR campaign; an effort by sportsmen to protect backcountry lands in Colorado’s White River region; a briefing on the Hill about fracking and threats to our national parks; and a breaking report showing how states are losing hundreds of millions of dollars due to bargain-basement royalty rates for oil and gas drilling on taxpayer-owned public lands.
1. Westerners value conservation more than drilling on public lands by 2-1 margin. Campaign for Equal Ground launched.
The Center for American Progress (CAP) released new polling data by Hart Research which found that “[a]bout two in three (65%) voters say that permanently protecting and conserving public lands for future generations is very important to them personally”, while only 30 percent of Westerners state that oil and gas drilling is an important priority on public lands. The poll represents the stark contrast between efforts in Congress to open more lands for drilling and the wishes of Westerners who want these areas protected. In conjunction with the poll release, CAP was joined by The Wilderness Society and others to launch the “Equal Ground” campaign which seeks to put conservation on a level playing field with oil and gas drilling on our public lands.
2. Industry’s new charm offensive.
In the face of growing public opposition to the oil and gas fracking operations in the West, industry lobby groups launched a new effort to spin the public relations mess they’ve created for themselves. But, true to form, they’re still relying on the same rhetoric and false claims.
3. Sportsmen ad campaign to protect backcountry in Colorado’s White River region.
Several major sportsmen groups, including Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership joined together to run ads in Colorado newspapers calling for the protection of sportsmen opportunities and wildlife habitat by balancing energy development and protection of Colorado’s backcountry in the White River region. The ads ran in the Denver Post, Rio Blanco Herald Times, Craig Daily Press, Steamboat Springs Pilot & Today, Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Boulder Daily Camera, Loveland Reporter Herald, Longmont Times Call, and Canon City Daily Record.
4. National parks advocates brief Congressional staff on threats to national parks and monuments.
A joint briefing by the National Parks Conservation Association and Park Rangers for our Lands alerted Congressional staff to the threats faced by national parks and monuments from irresponsible drilling. These parks and monuments are key parts of the Western economy. The presenters urged the federal government to adopt smart land use planning tools to avoid damaging these important economic and cultural resources.
5. States losing $400-$600 million in revenue each year due to bargain-basement onshore oil and gas royalty rates.
Oil and gas companies continue to rip-off taxpayers by developing resources on taxpayer-owned public lands under incredibly low royalty rates. According to a new report by the Center for Western Priorities, the federal government has set a royalty rate of just 12.5 percent while conservative states such as North Dakota and Texas have set 16.67-18.75 percent and 25 percent respectively. This indirect subsidy costs the federal government and Western states hundreds of millions of dollars each year.