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The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

What About The Laws

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By Dennis Sun

Earlier in the week, I watched the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the Biden administration’s pause on the permitting of oil and gas leasing of federal mineral rights. The hearing focused on the oil and gas issues and the second cancelation of the quarterly federal oil and gas mineral leasing sales.

            Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, from West Virginia, is currently the chairman and Wyoming’s Sen. John Barrasso is the ranking member. Sen. Manchin is a fair and common sense type committee chairman. While coming from the East Coast, he knows the issues of the western public lands states, especially the energy sector. A West Virginia native, he really understands coal development.

            Besides the committee members, there were some heavy-hitters testifying at the hearing, most notably Wyoming’s Gov. Mark Gordon, the Chairman and Chief Executive Office of Occidental Petroleum Ms. Vicki Hollab, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Deputy Director of Policy and Programs Ms. Nada Culver and other speakers from Tribes and an independent oil and gas association executive.

            I realized the importance of this hearing, but also recognized most everyone knew what the others were going to say. But, this is how government works – it has to be said. Gov. Gordon set the tone of the hearing explaining how this pause by the administration has hurt the economies of the western states, the energy companies doing business in these states and how important oil and gas development is to western communities, schools and the general population. 

            While there are a large number of federal oil and gas minerals leased and ready to drill, this pause has created an extreme uncertainly in the western states oil and gas business – many are just waiting out the pause. Even development on private leases usually has to deal with federal lands getting the product to markets through pipelines and roads. At one time last winter, there were no drilling rigs working in Wyoming.

            Gov. Gordon did a great job explaining the impact of this pause to the western states. He showed how, including the last fiscal year, total energy revenues generated $457 million over the last eight years. Wyoming also has averaged $35 million annually from federal lease sales.

            Now, Wyoming and a number of other states have filed suit against the government for this energy pause. Among the reasons for the suit is that states had no notice of the coming pause and no input. But, here’s the kicker – there are federal laws which say the BLM must have quarterly federal leasing sales in these western states and there must be drilling in places like the north slope of Alaska in the Natural Petroleum Reserve.

            Like the southern border immigration crises, one shouldn’t start at the tail end with a drastic action which causes so much damage and suffering to all. If someone has issues with a policy they want to change, they need to have discussions with all the stakeholders, realize the impacts to be caused by those changes, both negative and positive, and initiate those changes slowly with flexibility built in.

            The utter disregard that was shown by the BLM at this hearing, for the committee, those states and citizens involved and the laws was terrible. 

            It is not the way to run a government. 

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