No more slick permits: The return of clarity and transparency to drilling policy
Thanks to a successful partnership of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Wilderness Society and The Nine Mile Canyon Coalition, it was announced yesterday that oil companies will no longer be able to skip needed environmental assessments in sensitive areas, cinching up a Bush-era loophole that allowed the messy rubber-stamping of drilling permits. Yesterday’s settlement with the Bureau of Land Management means “categorical exclusions,” which allowed new drilling to be approved without first conducting a thorough environmental analysis, will no longer be allowed in cases where there are cultural resources, wetlands, wilderness and other highly sensitive factors.
This fight started in Nine Mile Canyon
This is something to
celebrate, and SUWA, along with our partners in the settlement at The
Wilderness Society and The Nine Mile Canyon Coalition, is pleased the oil and
gas reforms promised by Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar continue
to make progress. No objection has been made by the Bill Barrett Corporation, which
held the 30 wells in
In fact, the only objection has come from Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), who issued a statement Wednesday saying he is outraged at the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance for what he calls a “secret deal.” But unlike the shortcuts it curtails, there’s nothing murky about this settlement. SUWA was just one of several groups in a wide spectrum of environmental and historic preservation advocates that brought this justice to bear. In fact, after our groups took action in 2008, the government’s own General Accountability Office took issue with the categorical exclusions in a 2009 report, pointing out that the BLM was out of compliance with the law, and 28 percent of drilling permits over two years had been issued with the loophole. Use of categorical exclusions has shut the public and the agencies responsible for monitoring public lands out of the conversation for years. This settlement marks a return to accountability and transparency in the issuance of drilling permits.
Read the press release issued by SUWA, The Wilderness Society and The Nine Mile Canyon Coalition here.
--Jen Beasley, Legislative Advocate, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance