• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

SPRING FUNDRAISER

Is it time for our Spring fundraiser already? If you enjoy what we offer, and have the means, please consider donating. The sooner we reach our modest goal, the faster we can get back to business as (un)usual. Please, stay safe and we’ll see you down the road.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Oil industry Exploits Pandemic as Excuse to Dodge Federal Regulations, Fees

Photograph Source: Phil Dolby – CC BY 2.0

In an act of appalling hubris, the oil and gas industry is asking the federal government to loosen enforcement of federal regulations on public lands in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Kathleen Sgamma of the Western Energy Alliance, one of the petroleum industry’s primary lobbying groups, was quoted in EnergyWire as seeking one-year extensions for two-year drilling permits and 10-year federal mineral leases, a change that would allow them to hold onto unused leases they are stockpiling. Sgamma also referenced changes to compliance requirements and “royalty and fee waivers” for the world’s wealthiest industry. Robert McEntyre of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association is quoted in the same story as seeking “commonsense flexibilities” when it comes to complying with federal regulations.

Ironically, the oil industry’s call for a lax approach to regulatory oversight came the day after a federal court struck down the Army Corps of Engineers’ approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) precisely because the federal government failed to live up to its obligation to enforce federal regulations and undertake a detailed Environmental Impact Statement before approving the project. The DAPL project sparked a worldwide controversy when a months-long encampment of water protectors led by the Lakota people of the Standing Rock reservation attempted to block pipeline construction beneath the vulnerable waters of Lake Oahe. These same environmental and social justice problems are echoed in current controversies over pipelines like the Keystone XL, Enbridge Line 5, and the Coastal GasLink planned across Wet’suwet’en sovereign lands north of the Canadian border.

But pipelines are hardly the only aspect of the oil and gas industry where lax regulation is causing major problems. Declines of sage grouse throughout the American West are partly attributable to habitat destruction and fragmentation from wellfield construction. Drilling threatens to sever key migration routes like the ancient Path of the Pronghorn. Natural gas drilling and production in the Upper Green River Valley of Wyoming has replaced the previously pristine air quality of Pinedale, Wyoming with smog that rivals Los Angeles. This is an industry that clearly needs a lot more adult supervision from federal agencies – not less – than it is getting now.

Global oil prices have fallen due to a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, but natural gas prices are low as result from a decade of over-aggressive drilling and production in the United States which has glutted the market. The oil industry made this bed for themselves, and now they should have to lie in it.  Natural gas is bought and sold on a continental market; it is not a global commodity easily traded across oceans, as are crude oil and refined petroleum. Thus, when oil corporations over-produce, they run out of places to store it, and natural gas prices collapse. This dynamic has wracked western states with boom and bust economic disruptions (and the waves of crime and environmental destruction that accompany the booms) for decades.

Instead of taxpayers propping up fossil fuel industry, we should be helping it die with dignity, and instead fund programs to retrain and rehire the industry’s workers into new positions that offer comparable pay but make the world a better place. America has a massive backlog in infrastructure maintenance, with potholed highways and failing bridges. Oil industry workers could be gainfully employed rebuilding America’s infrastructure, or in a government-sponsored program to install solar panels for homeowners, instead of propping up an industry that accelerates the building climate catastrophe and costs taxpayers billions of dollars in disaster relief for sea level rise and extreme weather events exacerbated by climate disruption.

Congress should ignore the fossil fuel industry’s pleas for price breaks – and “flexibility” in enforcing regulations – on publicly-owned lands and mineral deposits, which federal government shouldn’t be leasing in the first place. Instead, lawmakers should focus economic stimulus dollars on distributed renewable projects like rooftop solar, which produce clean energy in urbanized settings that don’t require more sacrifice of lands and wildlife.

The coronavirus pandemic has led millions of workers to cancel travel plans, stay home, and self-isolate to minimize their exposure to the virus and reduce transmission to others as a means to “flatten the curve” of new cases. The resulting reduction in fossil fuel combustion has depressed commodity prices, true enough, but also has given the planet a much-needed reprieve, dispelling smog and clearing polluted waters. The pandemic gives the world a glimpse of how much cleaner and greener the world will be when we end our addiction to fossil fuels. That’s a future worth the investment.

More articles by:

Erik Molvar is a wildlife biologist and is the Laramie, Wyoming-based Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project, a nonprofit group dedicated to protecting and restoring watersheds and wildlife on western public lands.

June 01, 2020
Joshua Frank
It’s a Class War Now Too
Richard D. Wolff
Why the Neoliberal Agenda is a Failure at Fighting Coronavirus
Henry Giroux
Racial Domestic Terrorism and the Legacy of State Violence
Ron Jacobs
The Second Longest War in the United States
Kanishka Chowdhury
The Return of the “Outside Agitator”
Lee Hall
“You Loot; We Shoot”
Dave Lindorff
Eruptions of Rage
Jake Johnston
An Impending Crisis: COVID-19 in Haiti, Ongoing Instability, and the Dangers of Continued U.S. Deportations
Nick Pemberton
What is Capitalism?
Linda G. Ford
“Do Not Resuscitate”: My Experience with Hospice, Inc.
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Who Are the Secret Puppet-Masters Behind Trump’s War on Iran?
Manuel García, Jr.
A Simple Model for Global Warming
Howard Lisnoff
Is the Pandemic Creating a Resurgence of Unionism? 
Frances Madeson
Federal Prisons Should Not be Death Chambers
Hayley Brown – Dean Baker
The Impact of Upward Redistribution on Social Security Solvency
Raúl Carrillo
We Need a Public Option for Banking
Kathy Kelly
Our Disaster: Why the United States Bears Responsibility for Yemen’s Humanitarian Crisis
Sonali Kolhatkar
An Open Letter to Joe Biden on Race
Scott Owen
On Sheep, Shepherds, Wolves and Other Political Creatures
John Kendall Hawkins
All Night Jazz All The Time
Weekend Edition
May 29, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Tim Wise
Protest, Uprisings, and Race War
Nick Pemberton
White Supremacy is the Virus; Police are the Vector
T.J. Coles
What’s NATO Up to These Days? Provoking Russia, Draining Healthcare Budgets and Protecting Its Own from COVID
Benjamin Dangl
Bibles at the Barricades: How the Right Seized Power in Bolivia
Kevin Alexander Gray - Jeffrey St. Clair - JoAnn Wypijewski
There is No Peace: an Incitement to Justice
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Few Good Sadists
Jeff Mackler
The Plague of Racist Cop Murders: Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and the COVID-19 Pandemic
Joshua Frank
In Search of a Lost Socialism
Charles Pierson
Who are the “Wrong Hands” in Yemen?
David Schultz
Trump isn’t the Pope and This Ain’t the Middle Ages
Andrew Levine
Trump Is Unbeatable in the Race to the Bottom and So Is the GOP
Ramzy Baroud
Political Ambiguity or a Doomsday Weapon: Why Abbas Abandoned Oslo
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
A Growing Wave of Bankruptcies Threatens U.S. Recovery
Joseph Natoli
Conditions Close at Hand
N.D. Jayaprakash
No Lessons Learned From Bhopal: the Toxic Chemical Leak at LG Polymers India 
Ron Jacobs
The Odyssey of Elias Demetracopoulos
J.P. Linstroth
Arundhati Roy on Indian Migrant-Worker Oppression and India’s Fateful COVID Crisis
Melvin Goodman
Goodness Gracious, David Ignatius!!
Roger Harris
Blaming the COVID-19 Pandemic on Too Many Humans:  a Critique of Overpopulation Ideology
Sonali Kolhatkar
For America’s Wealthiest, the Pandemic is a Time to Profit
Prabir Purkayastha
U.S. Declares a Vaccine War on the World
David Rosen
Coronavirus and the Telecom Crisis
Paul Buhle
Why Does W.E.B. Du Bois Matter Today?
Mike Bader
The Only Way to Save Grizzlies: Connect Their Habitats
Dave Lindorff
Pandemic Crisis and Recession Can Spark a Fight for Real Change in the US
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail