Senators Voice Anger Over BLM’s Restrictive Practices, Lack of Transparency

The federal government owns roughly 640 million acres, or 28 percent of the United States. More than 90 percent of those lands are located in the 11 contiguous western states and Alaska.

Senators from Western States across the country recently voiced concerns over the abuse of that land during a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing to “Conduct Oversight of the Bureau of Land Management.” At the hearing, senators grilled Bureau of Land Management Director Tracey Stone-Manning for BLM’s lack of transparency and unrelenting determination to restrict American oil and natural gas.

Minimum Lease Bonds Increased:

BLM has released a series of policies that have hurt the American economy and restricted oil and natural gas production. A notable example is BLM’s decision to raise minimum oil lease bonds on federal land. In his questions to Stone-Manning, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) highlighted the lack of logic behind BLM’s decision:

“According to data from your own department, there were only 37 abandoned wells on lands managed by the Bureau. That’s less than one tenth of one percent of all the wells the Bureau manages. So how do you justify to increase bonding requirements by as much as 25 fold? This rule is completely arbitrary, it’s punitive, and you are trying to drive oil and natural gas producers off federal land. I think it’s disgraceful.”

Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) criticized the drastic increase in bond requirements, pointing out that the decision would likely hurt smaller oil and natural gas businesses in the western United States the most.

“It’s a radical change, disregards the costs to reclaim a Montana well… it disregards the small oil and natural gas producers in our state. Simply put, Montana oil and gas producers can’t afford a 1,500% increase in bonding.”

Restrictive Regulations:

Another major focus for many senators was the continued restrictive regulations, delayed processes, and damaging announcements that have all resulted in the same outcome: restriction of the American oil and natural gas industry.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who represents a state with a territory that is roughly 61 percent federally owned, was vocal about BLM’s restrictive practices:

In my state in Alaska, it seems you’ve abandoned any pretense of balance. BLM is restricting development however and wherever it can. It has direct consequences on our jobs and revenues. It hurts our energy, our mineral security.”

Sen. Murkowski went on to point out that the decision to restrict oil and natural gas production in Alaska and other states will result in an increase in overall global emissions due to an increased global reliance on dirtier energy from other countries, mainly America’s adversaries. Murkowski went as far as to call for BLM’s budget to be cut:

“Despite the press releases coming out of the Administration, [BLM] doesn’t help the environment because it is helping to degrade global ecosystems by incentivizing foreign projects to move forward without the same standard we would have here. I’ve suggested we need to cut BLM’s budget until the agency realizes they’ve got to follow federal law. The commitment to balance matters.”

Sen. Daines took aim at the slow pace of lease sales under President Biden’s BLM, highlighting the extent to which the Bureau has constrained Montana’s economy:

“The BLM has only held two oil and gas lease sales in Montana since Biden took office. You are supposed to have at least 4 a year. BLM’s new oil and gas leasing rules sets bonding requirements so high small producers can’t keep up. The Biden administration has one goal, and it’s radical. It is to end oil, gas, and coal production in the United States, and you aren’t hiding it.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) also pointed out that BLM’s decision to overprotect lands at the expense of the American economy was particularly damaging to his constituents, as Utah is roughly 65 percent federally-owned land. Sen. Lee accused BLM of treating the land in his state “like a museum,” due to them taking a “you can look but cannot touch” approach.

“Last fall, BLM closed 317 miles of historic roads in Utah…. These are in people’s backyards, you can hardly throw a rock in any direction in Utah and not hit federal land. Month after a month, a sweeping new policy seems to be imposed by you from your agency, harming Utahans that rely on the land for their livelihood. The Agency has strayed pretty far from its statutory mandate.”

Bottom Line: BLM’s abuse of federal lands disproportionately hurts western states and demonstrates a clear disregard for the opinions of landowners and taxpayers. President Biden is attempting to enact a transition to renewable energy through the BLM, and is doing so through deception, a lack of transparency, and indifference towards what is good to the American economy and taxpayer.

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