“If you’ve seen one redwood tree, you’ve seen them all,” then-Governor Ronald Reagan famously said.
It would appear that Mitt Romney embraces a similar philosophy. Romney recently released his energy plan, and the first point on the “Romney agenda” is: Empower states to control onshore energy development.
The plan reads: “We have an unprecedented opportunity to make our natural resources a long-term source of competitive advantage for our nation. If we develop these resources to the fullest, we will not only guarantee ourselves an affordable and reliable supply of energy, but also enjoy benefits throughout our economy.”
The premise of the plan is that energy independence is an achievable goal for America by 2020. However, as The New York Times points out, the simple truth is that a country that holds less than 3 percent of the world’s reserves but consumes more than 20 percent of the world’s supply cannot drill its way to energy independence. The only way to gain that independence is to develop alternative fuels and more efficient vehicles.
But surprise, surprise! Romney’s plan ignores the evidence, and passes control over to the states for energy development. And if states are determined to aggressively push fossil energy development, giving oversight of mining and drilling to them could put some of our National Parks at risk.
As The New York Times puts it:
The purposes [of federal public lands], under established law, are various: recreation, preservation, resource development. States, as a rule, tend to be interested mainly in resource development. In the energy future envisioned by Mr. Romney, that is precisely what would prevail.
As a fervent supporter and frequent visitor to our National Parks, I find this scary and depressing. Here, for example, are five parks that could be at risk under a Romney energy plan:
Arches National Park: Under George W. Bush, 77 oil and gas leases very close to National Parks were issued, including Arches. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar canceled these leases in January 2009, but that decision is not permanent. If the state of Utah was approached again by the oil and gas industry, they could well approve their requests, since Utah’s governor and legislature this year called for title to all 30 million acres of public lands to “ help foster economic development .”
Bryce Canyon National Park: A strip coal mine is currently proposed on Bureau of Land Management lands ten miles from the park, but the National Park Service has warned that it would “likely result in negative impacts to park resources and visitors,” as well as to air quality and scenery. But under Romney’s energy plan, the state of Utah would be responsible for permitting and overseeing the new mine. And guess what? Utah already has already approved a coal mine right next to the proposed one.
Photo Credit: TheAmericanWestPhotography.com/flickr
Grand Canyon National Park: Even though Interior Secretary Ken Salazar protected one million acres around the Grand Canyon from mining last January, the decision applied only to new claims. About 3,500 existing uranium claims may still be valid, which could result in up to 11 uranium mines on Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands near the canyon. With the state of Arizona in charge, these new mines could well be approved.
Photo Credit: YoTuT
Grand Teton National Park: The Forest Service is currently determining whether to allow the drilling of up to 136 natural gas wells in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, which borders Grand Teton National Park. This drilling could have a number of impacts on the park, including affecting the air quality and the park’s wildlife. If this decision were turned over to the state under the Romney energy plan, the project could potentially go forward.
Photo Credit: mcdux
Theodore Roosevelt National Park: North Dakota is ground zero for the Bakken oil boom, and already drilling rigs can be seen from within the park. And even more could be built if a proposed bridge is permitted that could open up even more of the adjacent Little Missouri Grasslands (managed by the Forest Service) to oil and gas drilling. If such drilling decisions were turned over to North Dakota, they would likely be approved.
Our National Parks are awesome natural treasures. Many people have fought hard to create them, and they don’t deserve the treatment they might get under the Romney plan.
What do you think?
Photo Credit: fritzmb