Timber! Obama Reverses Himself On Protecting Millions of Acres of Wildness in New Concession To Developers and Drillers

President Obama has made another huge concession to developers and drillers this week. He has abandoned a pledge to restore eligibility for federal wilderness protection to millions of acres of undeveloped land in the West. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who was himself viewed as a decidedly anti-environmental Senator before being picked by Obama, announced that millions of acres will no longer be designated as “wild lands.”

As with civil libertarians, environmentalists have long been dismissed by the White House as having no where to go in the next election. Accordingly, Obama continues to rollback on environmental protections such as his radical expansion of coal permits as well as his opening up of pristine areas of the East Coast to oil exploration.

The effort to protect the lands was blocked by Congress but environmentalists wanted the Administration to fight on this ground. Various business groups and conservative members of Congress heralded the President’s move. At risk are some of the most pristine untouched lands left in the country.

Source: Yahoo

112 thoughts on “Timber! Obama Reverses Himself On Protecting Millions of Acres of Wildness in New Concession To Developers and Drillers”

  1. Elaine, I am very suspicious of those state oil and gas boards. There is too much power concentrated in too few people and it is a lot easier to grease the palms of a few politicians than a lot of citizens.

    Perfect example of how politicians can be bought and paid for in this example. Congressman Mike Pompeo R-Kansas) was being interviewed by a reporter from the National Journal who essentially asked if he were bought and paid for by the Koch brothers. Pompeo gives what has been described as the Worst. Answer. Ever.

    NJ reporter: How do you respond to critics who say you’re being influenced by Koch Industries, given its owners’ contributions to your campaign?

    POMPEO: What do you think? I’d say [I’ve been] a small-government guy for an awful long time, and I’ll be a small-government guy when the good Lord calls me home. Koch Industries is an amazing business that has succeeded by building a product that customers love dearly. The folks who run Koch are very clear. They would love to have government just get out of the way and allow companies to compete, whether in their particular sectors or other sectors. They are true believers in small government.


  2. Otteray,

    I read the following article recently:

    Forced Pooling: When Landowners Can’t Say No to Drilling
    ProPublica, 5/19/2011

    As the shale gas boom sweeps across the United States, drillers are turning to a controversial legal tool called forced pooling to gain access to minerals beneath private property–in many cases, without the landowners’ permission.

    Forced pooling is common in many established oil and gas states, but its use has grown more contentious as concerns rise about drilling safety and homeowners in areas with little drilling history struggle to understand the obscurities of mineral laws.

    Joseph Todd, who lives in rural Big Flats, N.Y., wasn’t especially concerned when he learned in 2009 that his half-acre property had become part of a drilling unit. But when methane gas showed up in his drinking water well after the drilling began, he became outraged, describing forced pooling as “eminent domain for gas drillers.”

    “We never wanted to be a part of the drilling,” he said. “To have something like this happen is beyond frustrating.” Todd and some of his neighbors are now suing the company that is drilling near their neighborhood, even though no link has been proven between drilling and the contamination of their water.

    People who see forced pooling as an infringement of property rights also tend to oppose the practice, including Pennsylvania’s Republican governor, Tom Corbett, who has otherwise been a staunch supporter of the drilling industry.

    “I do not believe in private eminent domain, and forced pooling would be exactly that,” Corbett told a group of nearly 400 drilling industry representatives and supporters last month. He also said he won’t sign pending legislation that would allow forced pooling for drilling in Pennsylvania’s gas-rich Marcellus Shale.

    Forced pooling compels holdout landowners to join gas-leasing agreements with their neighbors. The specific provisions of the laws vary from state to state, but drillers are generally allowed to extract minerals from a large area or “pool”–in most states a minimum of 640 acres–if leases have been negotiated for a certain percentage of that land. The company can then harvest gas from the entire area. In most cases, drillers aren’t allowed to build surface wells on unleased land, so they use horizontal wells or other means to collect the minerals beneath those parcels.

    Thirty-nine states have some form of forced pooling law. West Virginia and Pennsylvania each have measures that don’t apply to drilling in the Marcellus Shale, and proponents are trying to expand the laws in those states. (Check out our chart of forced pooling laws across the United States.)

    In New York, the owners of 60 percent of the acreage in the proposed drilling unit must agree to lease their land before the state oil and gas board will consider a driller’s petition for compulsory integration, as it is known there. In Virginia, only 25 percent of the land must be leased. In all states with such laws, drillers must notify all the landowners within the prospective drilling area of their right to participate in a hearing before the oil and gas board, or whatever regulatory agency the state has set up for that purpose.

    If the board approves the driller’s petition, holdout landowners typically have three choices: contribute to the cost of the well and share profits from the sale of the gas; don’t pay for the well and share the gas profits after a “risk aversion” penalty is subtracted, or receive a state-mandated minimum royalty payment. Landowners who choose none of these options are automatically enrolled in the last plan. Opting out is not a possibility.

  3. In Greene County, Ohio, a woman found a salesman’s binder in her driveway, apparently dropped by one of the agents who were trying to convince landowners (she is one) to sign off on drilling rights. The Ohio AG has been urged by several outraged Ohio lawmakers to investigate the matter.

    Here is a PDF of the document she allegedly found. I cannot vouch for the authenticity, but from what I have seen and heard recently, these points have been used by energy company representatives at town hall meetings, in interviews and in talking to property owners. In other words, it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, so….


  4. Elaine and bdaman, one of the problems not mentioned too often is the fact the gas pressures in deep gas wells are enough to give one pause. I remember that in south Mississippi, the gas well pressures there run about 23,500 pounds ft^2. At that pressure, accidents are not only likely, they become inevitable. I remember visiting a site in south Arkansas back in either the late 1960s or early 1970s where a well blew out. The crater was enormous. I don’t remember the exact size, but my impression was that the earth was displaced about a quarter mile across.

    Here is what a gas well blowout looks like. This one is in Manitoba, Canada. Notice the drilling company staff tries to keep the thing from being filmed and a guy tries to put his hand over the camera lens. Typical. Now, keep in mind that in many areas, drilling is being done in populated areas, not a pine forest like the one in Manitoba.

  5. Bdaman,

    Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” got a clean bill of health this week in the first scientific look at the safety of the oil and production practice.

    Published: May 13, 2011


    Excerpts from that NYT article:

    The study released this week, done by scientists at Duke University, suggested that gas drilling causes methane gas to leak into people’s water and sometimes their homes (Greenwire, May 9). But methane contamination is not caused by injecting chemicals down the well. It is caused by bad well construction during drilling.


    But by the definition of industry, along with most everyone who followed oil and gas issues before the current shale drilling boom, fracturing didn’t cause those problems.

    That is because the companies are saying, specifically, that no one has ever proven that hydraulic fracturing fluid rises up a mile or so from the production zone, through layers of rock, to pollute drinking water aquifers.

    They rarely, if ever, clarify that regulators have repeatedly linked water contamination and other environmental problems to other aspects of drilling.

    For example, a well blowout during fracturing last month in Pennsylvania, sent fluid to a nearby stream, threatening surface water, not groundwater (Greenwire, May 4). And a well-known contamination case in Dimock, Pa., involved methane — not fracturing fluid — in local water wells (Greenwire, Dec. 16, 2010).

    Environmentalists and other industry critics consider this distinction to be nothing more than word games concocted by oil and gas lobbyists. Whatever you call it, they say, gas production is fouling air and water.

    “When they confine their definition to the single moment of the underground fracturing — a part of the process that has never been investigated — they can legally deny the obvious,” wrote Josh Fox, director of the anti-drilling documentary “Gasland,” in a rebuttal to industry criticism of his film.

    “Very tricky wording,” Fox wrote, “which belies the real truth. Quite deliberately.”


    A 2004 EPA study found that fracturing posed “little or no threat” of groundwater contamination, except perhaps when diesel is used. But the agency never tested the water itself. Instead it relied on a survey of state regulators. Critics like Fox rejoin that it is hard to prove the absence of something without looking for it.

    Jackson and his fellow researchers at Duke do not completely exonerate fracturing from problems, either. He said more research is needed into whether the intense pressure used to crack open shales, much higher than in conventional drilling, might be the cause of those leaky pipes allowing methane into well water.

    And industry is criticizing the sample size of the study as too small to prove methane contamination. That could cast similar doubts on any conclusions about the safety of fracturing.

    “It surprised me that there was so little systemic work on this,” Jackson said. “We don’t know much about the fracking.”

  6. Thanks, apology accepted. Have a good one. Take a close look at the Cornell and Duke studies. There was also a 2004 study done by the EPA which references some white papers done for the Dept. of Energy that also address the problem.

    In central Arkansas, newspaper editors do not seem to know which side of the issue to editorialize about. On the one hand, energy companies advertise heavily and they do not want to piss off advertisers, and on the other their readers are already pissed off. As a result, one can read some of the most waffling editorials ever seen in print. The Conway, Arkansas “Log Cabin Democrat” appears to be caught in the middle because a big conference on fracking was held at Hendrix College in Conway. The mud flew (pun intended).

  7. BTW, that same information has appeared in Arkansas newspapers and on TV broadcasts. The referenced article is an aggregation from multiple sources.

  8. What specifically do you allege that is untrue in that article on fracking problems in Arkansas?

    That is a news article and not a scientific publication, and states what is going on in Arkansas. Before you start, however, you may want to know I am originally from Arkansas and am thoroughly familiar with the Guy area and surrounding towns and counties. I have family there, some of whom are in the news business. I keep up with what is going on in Arkansas.

    So, now that is out of the way, what specifically is incorrect in the Guy, Arkansas news item?

  9. OS the IntelHub ? are you fucking kidding me.

    Founder, Staff Writer, and Director
    Shepard Ambellas

    Military Industrial Complex Prepares Mass Graves for U.S. Citizens
    Shepard Ambellas
    March 25, 2009

    Shepard Ambellas on Alex Jones Tv 2/2:New Mass Grave Site in Arizona !!

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