Congressman Would Open More National Parks To Drilling

There are some units of the National Park System that allow oil and gas drilling, but very few. And that's wrong, believes a congressman from Texas.

Republican Rep. Pete Olson said there are energy reserves scattered across the country that can't be tapped because they lie within the National Park System.

"Guys on the West Coast ... west of the Mississippi, they know they've got oil and gas under the land that they can't touch because it's on a national park or some sort of federal land," he told Platts, a media outlet that covers the energy sector.

Energy development already exists at places such as Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, Aztec Ruins National Monument, Big Cypress National Preserve, Big Thicket National Preserve, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site, Gauley River National Recreation Area, Lake Meredith National Recreation Area, New River Gorge National River, Obed Wild and Scenic River, Padre Island National Seashore, and Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.

Rep. Olson, who made his comments while attending the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners annual convention, believes companies can safely develop oil and gas resources on National Park System landscapes.

"Working with the parks system, without destroying the parks' value, we can do both. We've proven that we can do that here in Texas," he said.


A Republican Congressman telling a room of Texas oil and gas producers that drilling can be done safely in national parks. A cultural cliche that is just about cartoonish by now.
According to the NPS website, The Nature Conservancy re-acquired the mineral rights at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. This [url=] TNC publication[/url] indicates that the rights were acquired by trading the mineral rights from another piece of land with existing gas wells. I guess that is the energy development there.
I think I heard an echo of "I'll respect you in the morning".
Don't be fooled folks: I was born and live in Texas and Rep. Olson's statement that "We've proven that we can do that here in Texas" is true - proven pollution; proven road, land and waterway destruction; proven toothless enforcement of any environmental standards; proven disregard for local community standards; proven abuse of soil, air and water throughout Texas. The Texas Railroad Commission (which oversees petroleum exploration) has one job - protect the interests of the petroleum industry. Be fore-warned!
Chad, could you provide some recent examples?
"Cease being intimidated by the argument that a right action is impossible because it does not yield maximum profits, or that a wrong action is to be condoned because it pays" ~ Aldo Leopold

Perhaps a good national policy question should be whether there's a compelling need to consider more drilling in NPS areas at this time? A DOI report from 2012 says 70% of offshore acres and 56% of onshore acres of public lands already under lease are "idle." Industry sources blame part of that on the length of time required for permits, seismic testing, etc., so a real-world number is probably somewhat less than the DOI report says. Even so, there's a lot of public land (over 20 million onshore acres) already under lease, waiting for development.

Acquaintances of mine in the oil business tell me a major reason there's not more drilling is the shortage of drilling rigs. I'm aware of one tract of less than 500 acres in Texas that has netted over $600k in lease payments to the owners over the past 4 years, so that oil company obviously believes there must be some oil or gas there.... but no drilling has occurred. The landowner was told no rigs are available.

Ongoing oil booms in places like the Dakotas already have existing rigs at work, and existing leases sitting idle due to lack of rigs...or on some cases, while producers sit by, hoping for higher prices. Due to the repeating boom and bust cycles that have occurred in the industry for decades, there just doesn't seem to be a lot of interest in big investment in a lot of new rigs.

Meanwhile, there's numerous reports such as this one: "A glut of shale oil in fields from Texas to North Dakota is forcing producers to find ways around the U.S.’s three-decade-old ban on crude exports in order to seek higher prices in foreign markets." Or this one, from the Wall Street Journal: "The U.S. Gulf Coast—home to the world's largest concentration of petroleum refineries—is suddenly awash in crude oil."

So....according to DOI, over 50 million acres of public land both on and offshore already under lease, but not yet utilized; not enough drilling rigs available to handle existing leases on both public and private land; and a "glut" of domestic crude production from existing sources.

That being the case, perhaps someone can explain any reason to consider opening any NPS areas to additional leasing and potential development. At least for that Texas congressman, the answer probably lies in the above quote: the industry is looking for "higher prices in foreign markets."

Sorry, but higher profits for the industry aren't justification to apply the "drill, baby, drill" mentality to our national parks.

Absolutely agreed, Jim.
Dittos Jim.
Hmm Jim, Maybe he is looking a little more forward than you.

Given his audience, it's more likely he was "looking foward" to some additional campaign contributions :-)

On a more serious note, looking forward is a good reason not to consider drilling in places that are currently "off limits." As described in my previous post, there's absolutely no demonstrated need to do go after every last drop of oil under every acre in the country right now. That day may eventually come, in which case places now off-limits could prove a lot more valuable as last chance reserves than they are now. Until then, what's the rush?

Jim, it really is pretty scary, and now with the latest supreme court ruling on campaign finance/ money is free speech/ corporations are persons mentality, we truly will be in a corporate oligarchy. It is interesting to note that the progressive republican party movement under Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Howard Taft actually tried to get a handle on corporations donating to political campaigns resulting in the Tillman Act. Well, here we are, a little over 100 years later right back to robber barons era. History does repeat itself. You are right, the Congressman knows where the money is going to be coming from.
Dwight David Eisenhower, farewell address: [i]" This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government,[b] we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. [/b]The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.[/i]" Of course, Ike was well known for his left wing liberal attitude. Obviously a RINO.
And hopefully, Jim, long before we need to start scratching for the last remaining oil on earth, we will have been smart enough to develop sustainable renewable alternatives to oil and coal. But that's another political battle that is being fought even as we speak. Unfortunately, money too often trumps intelligence. Especially in the halls of Congress. These links take readers to articles about two recent Utah oil spills. One was recently discovered on Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument which, although not administered by NPS, is one of the jewels in our southwestern collection of special places. Be sure to look through the photos in the second one.
To retrieve Lee's stat from another thread--"It takes more than 1.5 million barrels of oil to produce a year's supply of water bottles. That's enough oil to fuel 100,000 cars for a year"--it would seem that conserving oil by banning platic bottles in the parks would help mitigate the (albeit contrived, as Jim notes) pressure to drill in our national parks.
[quote]That's enough oil to fuel 100,000 cars for a year[[/quote] Which is .04% of all cars on the road. Meaningless. Made even smaller by the fact that the number of water bottles bought in the parks is a small fraction of a year's supply of water bottles. Made even smaller (in the context of oil demand) by the fact that automobile use is only about a quarter of our use of energy.
Lee @ 8:48, Agreed. A combination of conservation, improved efficiency, development of alternatives--every bit positively contributes to alleviating pressures to drill in protected areas. (Your stat might be a bit off, Lee. According to Nat Geo, "it takes 17 million barrels of crude oil. That’s enough oil to keep a million cars going for twelve months." Not to mention the energy it takes to recycle plastic water bottles.
Justin, the problem is that there are many sources for stats regarding plastic bottles and their numbers vary widely. I tried to pick one that was in the middle of the range. As for ec's "meaningless" comment -- okay, maybe according to some statistic or other that may be true. Yet consider this, a brain tumor may be only about 0.04% of the mass of the entire body, but if your doctor tells you that you have one, will you call it "meaningless?" Is it possible that we are surrounded by environmental cancers that could, and should, be treated? Taken together, their sum total is certainly much more than 0.04% of what we need to survive on this battered old world. If we could eliminate -- or even mitigate -- just some of them, might we actually improve our economic well being and quality of life? I'm not trying to tell others what they must do or not do, just asking the questions: "Is this REALLY necessary?" and "Can we find a better way?" Unfortunately, many gullible Americans, like some who post frequently here, have allowed themselves to be duped by industry advertising and propaganda or by their own selfish agendas. I'm not trying to dictate, just asking people to actually do some THINKING.

It's no surprise that ec applies the term "meaningless" to the value of even small reductions in the use of oil resulting from any conservation efforts. After all, if you don't pump it, you can't sell it.

In that context, I'd welcome his response to my comment above on April 2, (12:22) that's there's no demonstrated need to drill in NPS areas at this time. A more appropriate use of "meaningless" would be reasons, other than increased industry profits, for such drilling.

Anyone who suggests oil and gas drilling and production can be accomplised without significant, negative impacts on a park experience sure hasn't spend any time around the oil fields. For just one small example, see the story on today's Traveler about Dinosaur NM.

Jim, it's doubtful that the Congresscritter and his henchmen really want to drill in national parks and monuments. This is an election year and for a nauseatingly long few months we're going to witness a lot more of this kind of nonsense. It's called blatant pandering to their most rabid supporters in hopes the rest of the voters in their districts will have typically short American voter memories and will punch whatever button accompanies an incumbent's name on the voting machine.
As far as I can tell,"gullible" is an equal opportunity condition. As long as the arguments are directed at the gullible and they decide the outcome, not good.
Lee - Since the percentage of body mass that has cancer at any moment is irrelevant to the severity of the disease your comment makes no sense. With cancer the entire body will die. With oil, reducing some fraction of a percent of consumption would be meaningless and have no impact on the other 99+ percent. For Jim, I did respond. I suggested that the Senator was looking forward to future needs. Your response is, we don't need it now, which totally ignores the Senators' more prudent vision. Further, if in fact there are no rigs and no demand for additional energy sources, then the producers won't lease the NPS lands so your concerns would be moot if your assumptions are correct.
Speaking of gullible . . . . and unable to THINK beyond a myopic agenda.

Nope, I didn't say there was "no demand for additional energy sources." The demand by producers for cheap new energy sources, such as public land, is insatiable, especially if they gain approval for increasing exports to overseas markets. I said there was no demonstrated need in terms on national interests, for the reasons I cited above.

re: "The Senator was looking forward to future needs."

The subject of the discussion was Representative Pete Olson, but heck, with all the potential new campaign contributions from the oil lobby, maybe he got his "promotion" even faster than he hoped :-)

As a followup, why do companies want to lease public vs. private land—even if they don't expect to actually drill soon? Lease values vary widely based on current and estimated activity, but costs for leases on public land can be a bargain. In the past three years, the average price for a BLM lease in Montana and the Dakotas was $210 per acre.

State-owned land can also be a bargain. In one area in Michigan in 2012, a "signing bonus of $35 to $200 per acre was common for private land, but the average paid to lease state-owned land in that area at that time ranged from $17 to $54 per acre. One article cites private land lease payments in a "hot" area of PA of $7,000 per acre; they've been known to get into six-figures for a 100-acre tract.

BLM leases on federal land "are valid for 10 years or as long as there is at least one producing well," so a single well can extend a lease on thousands of acres of public land for many years. It's a great hedge for producers, who can reasonably expect to see higher prices for oil in the future...and in the meantime, they can deduct the lease payments as expenses. By contrast, quick research indicates leases on private land, which are almost always much smaller parcels, often run for 3 to 5 years.

An even bigger incentive for production from public lands is the royalty paid on production. On federal land, the royalty is 12.5 percent—and it's shared with the state where the well is located. Most private landowners are understandably reluctant to discuss what they earn from leases and from royalties, but a study cited here estimates the average royalty paid in PA for natural gas is 18.75%, and runs as high as 20%.

No wonder the industry loves the long-term leases on public land. If they can cut their royalty expenses by 6 to 8% as compared to private land, we're talking about some serious money. And, it get's even better for the companies. Congress even cut royalties for some offshore wells (on public land) to zero for wells drilled between 1996 and 2000. One estimate is a loss to the taxpayers of $26 billion in royalties on those wells, and that's just through the next 10 years. Another estimate places the total cost to taxpayers at up to $53 billion in the next 25 years. Do we "subsidize" big oil? There's one answer, and try to get that kind of deal from a private landowner.

The feds need to have more flexibility on negotiations for royalty income from public land, but of course that's a decision subject to congressional control... and we know they always base their decisions strictly on the public interest.

[quote]I said there was no demonstrated need in terms on national interests, for the reasons I cited above. [/quote] No need in "national interests"? Its not in our national interest to have a LONG TERM secure source of energy? In not in our national interest to create thousands of jobs? Its not in our national interest to improve our balance of trade? Its not in our national interest to lower the worldwide cost of oil? Its not in our national interest to have countries reliant on us rather than the other way around? What exactly do you call "in our national interest"? Ceding our sovereinty to the UN?
Jim, It may very well be the case that we need to review what we charge for royalties on public lands. But, if you had any understanding in economics you would recognize that the end result would not be lower oil company profits but rather higher energy prices. If anyone is getting a subsidy, it is the end users not the producers.
Our national interest does not lie is some sort of conspiracy laced paranoid fantasy ala LaVerkin Utah. Our national interest lies in carefully considering, realistically and clearly, what is best for our nation, for its future, for all of us and not just the big money interests. Unfortunately, that entire concept escapes many whose gullible myopia distorts reality for them.
Conspiracy laced paranoid fantasy? Energy security, jobs, balance of trade, national security is a "conspiracy laced paranoid fantasy? But of course, your revert to your insults ("whose gullible myopia distorts reality") when you can't legitimately participate in the discussion.
Guess you're right, Lee. Pandering to the most rabid supporters. Even to the degree of invoking black helicopters from the UN.
Energy security, jobs, balance of trade, national security become paranoid fantasies any time they are coupled with "ceding our soverienty (sic) to the U.N." You just proved the legitimacy of my comments. Watch out for those guys wearing blue helmets, though. They're everywhere! Oh, sorry. It was just spring football practice at BYU.

I won't presume to debate economics with a Wall Streeter, but will note that oil and gas prices often seem to operate independent of many principles of economics. Just one example: during several recent periods of reduced domestic demand and increased domestic production, prices at the pump continued to rise. The reason cited by the industry was that oil prices are set on a "global level," and changes in domestic demand and production weren't big enough to have an impact.

If that's the case, the same "big picture" argument would certainly apply to any small increases on royalties paid on oil and gas from public lands, and the result on world oil prices would be the same as you recently described efforts to save some oil via conservation efforts: "insignificant." The added revenue, however, could certainly be put to good use given our current federal budget situation.

Here's an interesting question: After Congress decided to bail out the industry and waive royalties for those offshore wells, industry costs went down, but did prices to consumers drop? "Economic principles" would suggest that should occur, but perhaps you could cite some evidence that prices fell as a result.

As to concerns about a "long-term" supply of domestic oil and gas, all the more reason to bankroll any reserves under NPS lands and similar protected sites for future urgent needs. Perhaps someday they'll be needed once other sources have been exhausted, but since you've previously said that won't happen for a very long time, there's no rush.

Perhaps you can cite some figures on how much oil and gas could be added to domestic supplies by drilling in NPS areas currently closed to such use - and how that would in turn impact the overall cost of oil and gas for consumers. To use an economic term, I'd predict the benefits to Americans would be marginal, but the costs in terms of loss of values in those special places would be enormous.

Jim is exactly correct -- and drilling in national parks would produce only an "insignificant" amount of oil. Perhaps a better word, however, would be "infinitesimal." If drilling in the huge Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska (19 million acres) would produce enough oil to sate the United States' oil gluttony for only 836 days (less than 2-1/2 years), and might reduce oil prices by a whopping 75 cents per barrel (less than 1 percent), only a fool would argue that drilling for oil in the small number of acres in parks that MIGHT overlie oil deposits would provide any positive effect at all. The numbers given above come from a report specially prepared for Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska. We might note that following release of this report, Stevens' propaganda machine shifted its emphasis from reduced oil prices to creation of a few hundred temporary jobs as the primary benefit of drilling ANWR.
I would be interested in hearing in how ec would define "long term" in the context of our national energy strategy - and how allowing drilling in NPS areas currently closed to that activity would fit into that equation.
Mtnliving-- Don't hold your breath. Rick
If we put aside the incoherent nonsense about the U.N., etc., and have a serious conversation, there's an important subtext to Jim's narrative, which I think retrieves one of the main points of the article. If polled, most Americans are opposed (I imagine) to turning their national parks into oil fields, but to what extent are they aware of ongoing efforts to do just that? For example, I spent New Year's paddling through the Everglades but am just now learning of renewed pressures to open the park and Big Cypress to extensive oil exploration. And how widespread and serious are these pressures, beyond just a rep from TX-22 telling a room full of oil producers what they want to hear?
You have to keep paying attention. For example, here in Alaska we have a governor, Parnell - Sarah Palin's hand-picked choice- who is totally bought and paid for by the oil companies. Once that is identified, you have to look into everything he does and look for the little things. For example, he recently tried to appoint a former oil company executive from California to the board that determines the value of the trans-Alaska pipeline for taxation purposes. Public outcry daylighted the fact that it was constitutionally required that the appointment be an Alaskan. Oops!
Rick is exactly correct. Our state legislators and U.S. Congresscritters are experts at backroom, under the table, hidden dealings that will never see the light of day unless someone has the courage to shine a spotlight on them. They are sneaky as sneaky can be.
Here's a link to the minutes of the November 2012 City Council meeting in Manti, Utah. For readers who are not familiar with the inbred characteristics of remote small towns, this might be educational. For those who wonder how such things can possibly gain traction in any place, I'll point out that locals in these spots spend a lot of spare time gathered in one or two local eateries where subjects of great concern are chewed and re-chewed like cud. In southern Utah (and more than a few other American small towns) there are a couple of radio stations that broadcast constant streams of warnings and fears and fantasies that are readily accepted as gospel by their isolated listeners. I actually heard a commentator on a station in Delta, Utah warning about the government's conversion of railroad boxcars into gas chambers. He also warned that the United States Coast Guard is moving in to begin patrolling the Great Salt Lake, Sevier Dry Lake, and other bodies of water in Utah. That is part of a plan for the Federal government to take control of Utah to prevent patriots like him from resisting them. Concerns addressed in this council meeting originated when the Army's Special Forces announced a training exercise to be held in the Manti area. Its objective is to be learning how to deal with warfare in an area of mixed rural and small town environments. I guess they wanted a realistic scenario in which they'd also have to deal with locals who were members of the Taliban -- in this case, the Utah Taliban.
Stranger than fiction, Lee. There's a sociology dissertation up for grabs there.
You can rant about small towns about Park issues but have you not been paying any attention to the overreach of the corrupted Lois Lerners (IRS)and above that could (should) give pause to what many fear? Seems that you and a few others here could be living in a quaint village yourselves, respectfully. This from NPS LE Rangers top boss:
Sorry, trail advocate, but that sounds a bit like Tea Party paranoia.
As opposed to being oblivious or having one's own agenda,I guess. There is something going on.
Yes, there is something going on. There's big money to be made by frightening the wits out of gullible folks.
Well, I have to hope gullible people wise up to reality before it smacks them along side the head or they're to far gone to realize what's happened. I don't think what's going on is particularly groovy and many rational folks that I know are very concerned, scared out of their wits or just supremely disappointed that good people could possibly buy into unbelievable crap that's being shoveled. Adios.
The 900 Executive Order comment made by one of the Manti residents was debunked by [url=] Snopes [/url].
There's something happening here But what it is ain't exactly clear There's a man with a gun over there Telling me I got to beware I think it's time we stop Children, what's that sound? Everybody look - what's going down? There's battle lines being drawn Nobody's right if everybody's wrong Young people speaking' their minds Getting so much resistance from behind It's time we stop Hey, what's that sound? Everybody look - what's going down? What a field day for the heat A thousand people in the street Singing songs and carrying signs Mostly saying, "hooray for our side" It's time we stop Hey, what's that sound? Everybody look - what's going down? Paranoia strikes deep Into your life it will creep It starts when you're always afraid Step out of line, the men come and take you away ===== Lessons from the 60's, and ironically enough both sides probably think the song is singing about their side.
Well, I'd suggest trying not to slip into irrelevance and just accepting or being fatalistic about what's being shoveled. A good start would be to fact check and see who's doing most of the lying and deceiving. A tough task, I admit. Getting back to the Parks and what we love about them, it's a beautiful day here, I'm out.
Perhaps the extremes of both sides think so. But I hope there are enough of us in the middle of sanity who have faith that the genius of our democracy, our Constitution, and our system of checks and balances will continue to do what they are supposed to do. We've survived more than 200 years of challenges and are still going. And if one reads much history, it becomes obvious that what we are hearing today is not much different than what has been happening throughout all those years. Wouldn't it be nice, though, if we would start to learn from our mistakes? What's really frightening is the possibility that some day, some extremists will try to act upon their fantasies. It has happened before, it will happen again and any time someone with a loud megaphone or microphone is making money spreading fears and lies, let's hope there will always be sensible people to counteract them. It was encouraging to see that the Manti mayor and council seem to be among the sane -- at least for the time being. On the other hand, there is LaVerkin. Sensible people must never let our vigilance waver. In this case, the article tells of a threat to our parks. Maybe the next time, it will be something more serious. Right now, outside of Mesquite, Nevada, a rancher who for years has flaunted grazing laws on public lands is fighting with the BLM and NPS. His supporters are using some of the same inflammatory rhetoric we hear continually on hate radio. Ironically, the laws he has been violating have been in place for many years and the judge who granted the BLM's action order was appointed by a President who is a darling of the right wing. Enough to make your head spin.