Tonight I had the opportunity to attend a town meeting in Vernal with the Deputy Secretary of the Interior David J. Hayes, Acting Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Mike Pool, and Acting Director of the Forest Service Dan Wenk. Hayes was the only one who said anything. Which seems odd to me because he's had his current job for less than a week. The other two guys are career guys in their bureaus.
Anyway it was incredibly educational. The reason Hayes gave for coming was because of concern over the withdrawal of 77 leases. Concern in the last sentence is defined as "a the tri-county lawsuit against Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar for illegally revoking the leases". As a result of Salazar's action, many jobs have been lost in what was previously a growing economy in the Uintah Basin and Eastern Utah.
The meeting was a "listening session" which means that after a few opening remarks, (which the audience found insulting) citizens were invited to come up and speak to the Deputy Director via a microphone and express their views. The views were overwhelmingly against Salazar's actions and the Obama administration's policies and practices concerning the area. I heard such comments as "We don't want stimulus, we want jobs.", "Obama ran on change, I'm lucky if I have any change in my pocket.", and "These people know the land, work the land, and love the land.". However, there were dissenters from the majority. Three of which came to the microphone. They had a hard time getting their views across because of the boos and angry responses to their comments. Booing is in bad taste as is interrupting and shouting, but it goes to show that emotions were high.
One of the most popular speakers was Lincoln Brown, the local conservative talk radio host. But his comments weren't the most informative. It was the local guys who actually serve on committees and in local offices who had actual facts that got my attention.
The 77 leases weren't withdrawn because they were "rushed" or "near National Parks and Monuments". It took years for these leases to get to the point of sale. Resource Management Polices were made and approved after years of work following the 80,000 or so regulations set up by the government regarding mineral exploration. None of the leases is closer than 15 miles from any National Park or Monument and all of them are immediately adjacent to existing mineral leases actively operating and producing natural gas.
Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel and meets Obama's standards for clean fuel. It is also used to heat 61% of homes in the United States. Blocking the production of natural gas hurts everyone. Some of those 80,000 regulations concern what happens to the land once the wells are dry or abandoned. The lease owners have to return the land to as close a state as possible to what it looked like before construction. Environmental impact studies must be done before any construction (that's why I even have a job!) and so forth.
Many of the comments refuted environmentalist's concern that oil and gas exploration is raping the land and destroying natural resources. The comment "The people know the land, work the land, and love the land." was given by Lincoln Brown who, in my opinion, knows the people of the Uintah Basin. The same people who work in the oil and gas fields are the ones who play in it, they're the ones who live in it, they're the ones who take care of it.
Attention was also given to the hypocritical actions of the Obama administration. President Obama speaks about development of renewable fuels, but ignores the non-renewable fuels with which our public lands are loaded. Fuels which, if developed, can bring our nation into energy independence. He bails out failing industries, then attacks others which provide just as many jobs as failing ones. He says he want to stimulate economic growth, but he appoints Salazar who kowtows to environmentalists as soon as he gets into office by blocking what drives Uintah Basin economy. Then Salazar appoints an environmentalist as his 2nd.
I'm glad I went. I learned more about why my wages and hours were cut and why many of the people I work with no longer have jobs. I felt the thrill of participating in politics and letting my voice be heard. I hope to be able to participate in more stuff like this.
Praying for change,