Senate Land Grab Bill Would Lower Energy Production

Senate Land Grab Bill Would Lower Energy Production

Congress Ignoring Real Priorities While Expanding Government Power
January 09, 2009

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Washington,
D.C., January 9, 2008—At a time
when the federal government faces an array of challenges ranging from a major
recession to homeland security and ongoing military commitments abroad, the
Democratic leadership of the U.S. Senate has decided to focus first on locking
away millions of acres of federal lands from energy and natural resource
production.

The Omnibus Public Lands Management Act (S. 22), sponsored
by Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Harry Reid (D-NV) and originally
introduced in the 110th Congress, could be voted on as early as this
weekend. The legislation would create or expand over a dozen federal Wilderness
Areas, create a whole new category of land lock-ups for the Bureau of Land
Management (the so-called National Landscape Conservation System), and threaten
private property owners across the country with extremely restrictive land use
regulations by designating dozens of new National Trails, Wild and Scenic
Rivers, and National Heritage Areas.

“The Bingaman-Reid bill is full of bad provisions, but the
worst are the ones that would prohibit oil and natural gas production on more
than a million acres of federal land,” said Myron
Ebell
, Director of Energy Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
“Tens of millions of acres of federal lands in the West have already been
withdrawn from mineral and energy production. The new Congress should be
opening some of these areas, which would help increase domestic energy
production and lower prices. Instead, faced with declining natural gas
production and potential shortages in the near future, the first bill that Majority
Leader Harry Reid wants the Senate to consider would take 1.2 million acres in Wyoming with high
natural gas potential out of production.”

Property rights advocates like the Competitive Enterprise
Institute have long opposed expanding federal land ownership, in part because
of the federal government’s poor track record in managing the lands it already
controls. Management strategies adopted by the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of
Land Management, and National Park Service have led to destructive wildfires,
habitat loss, and the spread of pests and disease in large swaths of forest and
range land throughout the Western United States. Over one hundred non-profit groups last November sent a letter to the Senate raising
concerns about an earlier incarnation of the current legislation.

CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan
public policy group dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited
government.  For more information about
CEI, please visit our website at www.cei.org.