It’s National Terrible Idea Week in Congress, where two destructive packages are hitting the House floor days apart, threatening our public lands and even our Constitutional rights in an “Oil Above All” frenzy of handouts to developers and the oil and gas industry. It’s as if the Natural Resources Committee was asked to put all its bad eggs in one basket and obliged.
In a head-spinning handout to Big Oil, the energy package known as H.R. 4480, the “Domestic Energy and Jobs Act” contains provisions to prioritize drilling over all other uses of public lands including wilderness and recreation, to automatically grant drilling permits on an arbitrary timeline, to charge a $5,000 fee to anyone seeking to exercise their Constitutional right to protest drilling, and to automatically grant a quarter of nominated leases each year to oil companies, regardless of the parcels’ suitability for drilling, impact on sensitive habitats, or conflicts with existing uses.
The other package, H.R. 2578, the so-called “Conservation and Economic Growth Act,” contains a number of stinkers, but especially H.R. 1505, a bill that would exempt the United States’ borders for 100 miles inland from The Wilderness Act, the National Parks Organic Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and 13 other environmental laws! This giant swath of land includes national treasures like Glacier National Park, the Boundary Waters Wilderness, and Sonoran Desert National Monument, and though it purports to be a tool for aiding homeland security, the Department of Homeland Security and the Border Patrol both oppose it.
At a time when industry is squatting idly on millions of acres of land leased for development, and the Obama administration is leasing places in Desolation Canyon that the Bush administration identified as wilderness, it makes no sense to open up more treasures to drilling, add punitive hurdles to Americans’ right to protest, or put industry in the driver’s seat when it comes to identifying lands suitable for development. It also doesn’t make sense to have a border bill that the Border Patrol opposes.