House GOP's new rules make it easier to sell off public lands, encourage drilling
The Republican-led House of Representatives recently passed a new package of rules. Two of the provisions could affect public lands and oil and gas development across the Mountain West.
The first rule stipulates that for any bill authorizing the transfer of federal public lands to state, local or tribal governments, Congress wouldn't have to account for lost revenues.
“Instead of having to come up with money to pay the government for the loss of that land, it would be completely free to give away public land – and that is as extreme as you can get when it comes to anti-public lands policy,” said Kate Groetzinger, the communications manager for the conservation group Center for Western Priorities.
She said the rule – which the House GOP first adopted in 2017 – would make it easier for bills to “liquidate and privatize public land.”
The other measure fast-tracks bills that say if the administration wants to use the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, it has to lease more public land to oil and gas companies.
Groetzinger says disposing of public lands and boosting oil and gas drilling goes against most Westerners’ views, citing the center's most recent Winning the West poll. It found that 59% of likely voters in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada support prioritizing renewables like wind and solar to avoid “dangerous, boom-and-bust sources.”
Since the Senate is held by Democrats, these measures are likely to face opposition.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.