Aspen's congressman continues campaign to open more public lands to oil, gas drilling

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenMay 5, 2012
Scott Tipton
Photo by Troy Hooper
A trio of bills designed to invigorate drilling on public lands has a watchdog group casting U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton, Doug Lamborn and Mike Coffman as “the Three Stooges for the oil and gas industry.”

Congressman Tipton introduced the Planning for American Energy Act, or H.R. 4381, which would not only direct the Secretary of the Interior to establish goals for an all-of-the-above energy production plan every four years but it would also give oil companies first crack at leasing federal lands.

Congressman Lamborn followed that bill up the same day, April 18, with the Streamlining Permitting of American Energy Act, or H.R. 4383, which would loosen the application requirements for permits and require the Secretary of the Interior to issue a permit within 30 days of receiving drilling applications. It also contains a clause requiring citizens to pay $5,000 to protest drilling projects.

Congressman Coffman, also on April 18, introduced the Providing Leasing Certainty Act, or H.R. 4382, which outlaws the public, local governments and stakeholders from reviewing lease sales.

“Reps. Lamborn, Tipton and Coffman are doing a great job playing the Three Stooges for the oil and gas industry, but the American public isn’t laughing,” said Matt Garrington, the Denver-based co-director of The Checks and Balances Project.

“Taking away the public’s right to participate in decisions about land we own is criminal," he said. "It’s clear that these representatives are working on behalf of industry groups like Western Energy Alliance [WEA] and not the public. Why else would they invite WEA Vice President Kathleen Sgamma to testify about why they should shut their own constituents out of decisions about what happens to their public lands?”

Phone and email messages left for the National Republican Congressional Committee and staffers at the congressmen's campaign offices were not immediately returned.

Drilling has reached its highest level under President Obama than at any point since the Reagan administration. Domestic oil production hit an eight-year high in 2011, and natural gas production hit an all-time high that year. While Colorado's conservative congressional delegation is pushing to lease more federal lands to the oil and gas industry, there are over 6,000 unused permits in the West alone.

“We should be discussing real solutions to gas prices, such as aggressively investing in high tech vehicles and renewable energy, increasing fuel efficiency for cars and trucks, and cracking down on Wall Street oil speculators,” Garrington said. “All this legislation will do is lock the public out of our public lands and put more money in the pocket of oil company CEOs.”

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