Oil and Gas Drillers Hid Identities

A fellow journalist, Kathy Helms wrote the following news article, which deserves the public’s attention regarding the destructive practice of fracking. According to Navajo Nation Council Delegate Leonard Tsosie, who represents the eastern portion of the Navajo Nation, which is in New Mexico, fracking is already occuring near Navajo Reservation lands that are next to U.S. Bureau of Land Management land.
Groups challenge BLM drilling policy
November 25, 2013
By Kathy Helms
Diné Bureau navajo1@gallupindependent.com
WINDOW ROCK — A coalition of 45 local and national organizations, including San Juan Citizens Alliance, Friday called on the Bureau of Land Management to make fully transparent the process where private interests nominate public lands for oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
In a letter to BLM Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze, the coalition asked that the agency reverse its new policy, which the groups claim is designed to sidestep a court order requiring transparency in the oil and gas leasing process.
In June 2012, Western Environmental Law Center on behalf of Citizens for a Healthy Community, filed a Freedom of Information Act request and subsequent lawsuit that resulted in the court’s favorable ruling. At issue were the names of the corporations that had nominated 30,000 acres of public lands in western Colorado for drilling and fracking.
On Feb. 13, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado ruled that BLM violated the public’s right to know when it refused to release the identity of private parties that nominate public lands for oil and gas drilling leases through submissions of Expressions of Interest.
New policy
However, beginning Jan. 1, BLM will no longer require private parties to identify themselves when nominating public lands for oil and gas leasing. The Expression of Interest now can be submitted anonymously, circumventing the court’s order as well as the intent of the Freedom of Information Act, according to the groups, which are calling on BLM to reverse its new policy.
In the letter sent Friday, the groups stated, “The sale of our public lands for private oil and gas development should be an open and transparent process, period. Any policy falling short of this basic principal cannot be maintained.”
In his opinion ordering BLM to reveal the names of the public land nominators, U.S. District Court Senior Judge Richard P. Matsch stated, “The identity of the submitter may be relevant to the plaintiff and others who may raise concerns about the stewardship records of that potential owner, a factor relevant to the environmental impact of the proposed sale.”
BLM’s new policy makes it impossible for concerned citizens to learn the identity of the oil and gas industry proponents seeking to drill and frack on public lands near their communities, the groups said.
Key energy bills
Last week, U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., voted with Republicans and Democrats on three key energy bills related to developing domestic resources.
HR 1965 requires the Department of the Interior to approve or deny an application to drill on federal lands within 30 days. If the Secretary has not made a decision on the application by the end of the 60 day period, the application is approved unless environmental reviews are incomplete.
HR 2728 ensures that the main point of regulation for hydraulic fracturing remains primarily at the state level, in addition to the eight federal environmental laws that currently regulate it.
HR 1900 imposes deadlines for federal agencies reviewing natural gas pipeline applications, which serves to expedite the review process. The bill amends the Natural Gas Act to require that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approve or deny a pipeline certificate within 12 months of receiving the completed application, but only if the project is part of FERC’s pre-filing process.
“These three bills will play a key role in improving American energy security through safe, time-tested means. Hydraulic fracturing is a safe, proven method for energy development.” Pearce said. “These bills will expedite the process for application approvals after environmental reviews, and will deliver a shot in the arm to an already growing energy sector that supports over 100,000 good-paying jobs in New Mexico. … It is vital that the Senate act on these bipartisan bills.”
According to a new report by Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, Pearce ranked third among the top 10 recipients of fracking industry contributors for 2004-12, receiving nearly $400,000.
Rep. Joe Bartion, R-Texas, was in first place with more than $500,000, followed by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who also received nearly $400,000.

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