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House GOP's new rules make it easier to sell off public lands, encourage drilling

Pronghorn alongside oil and gas facilities near the BLM Pinedale Field Office in Wyoming.
Bryan Nealy
BLM Wyoming, Flickr
Pronghorn alongside oil and gas facilities near the BLM Pinedale Field Office in Wyoming.

Two measures in the House of Representatives new rules package are regionally significant. One measure makes it easier to transfer federal public lands and the other supports oil and gas development.

The Republican-led House of Representatives recently passed a new package of rules. Two of the provisions could affect public lands and oil and gas development across the Mountain West.
The first rule stipulates that for any bill authorizing the transfer of federal public lands to state, local or tribal governments, Congress wouldn't have to account for lost revenues.
“Instead of having to come up with money to pay the government for the loss of that land, it would be completely free to give away public land – and that is as extreme as you can get when it comes to anti-public lands policy,” said Kate Groetzinger, the communications manager for the conservation group Center of Western Priorities.
She said the rule – which the House GOP first adopted in 2017 – would make it easier for bills to “liquidate and privatize public land.”
The other measure fast-tracks bills that say if the administration wants to use the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, it has to lease more public land to oil and gas companies.
Groetzinger says disposing of public lands and boosting oil and gas drilling goes against most Westerners’ views, citing the center's most recent Winning the West poll. It found that 59% of likely voters in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada support prioritizing renewables like wind and solar to avoid “dangerous, boom-and-bust sources.”
Since the Senate is held by Democrats, these measures are likely to face opposition.

Emma Gibson