Here we go again: The energy industry is bumping heads with the environment, and (big surprise) oil is once again the catalyst for injury. But this time, the petroleum industry will head home empty-handed.
On Wednesday, Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told Congress that he does not and will not support oil drilling near Arches and Canyonlands national parks or at Dinosaur Monument.
Salazar’s address to Congress came in tandem with his department’s review of the 77 parcels of land where he cancelled oil and gas leases back in February. Salazar’s decision reversed the Bush administration’s move to allow drilling on roughly 130,000 additional acres of public land in southeastern Utah.
While environmental groups applaud Salazar’s stand, members of the local communities affected by the cancelled leases are furious with Salazar and the department’s decision, as they have historically relied heavily on crude oil commerce.
According to the Deseret News, the decision to cancel the leases leaves the economically stressed southeastern corner of Utah without an easy way out. One couple from Vernal, UT traveled to Salazar’s Washington office (upon invitation) on their own dime to personally deliver 150 letters of protest written by members of their community. Although Salazar commented that he would be happy to take any documents they wished to contribute, Salazar’s top deputy stood the couple up. (Ouch, Salazar!)
Salazar, however, has attempted to reassure the communities most drastically hit by the drilling ban.
Salazar said about them [the parcels], "Many of those lease parcels are in fact going forward. But the fact is I don't believe we should drill everywhere because not everyplace is appropriate for us to drill."
Salazar added, "We shouldn't be drilling near Arches National Park and Canyonlands and Dinosaur. Those are important treasures that we need to protect."
It seems logical that we should protect “protected” public lands, but the economic needs of Americans can't be ignored, either. Hopefully Salazar can be a man of compromise who finds economic solutions, too—just not in our national parks. I'll just let the words uttered by Wallace Stegner in 1983 speak for themselves:
National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.
Amen to that.
Drilling near parks opposed