Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Losing Patience

by The New York Times
August 21, 2007

Dirk Kempthorne’s arrival in Washington as secretary of the interior raised hope among conservationists that he would moderate the Bush administration’s aggressive search for oil and gas in some of the country’s most environmentally sensitive lands. This has not happened. The Bureau of Land Management, which issues drilling leases and permits, seems to moving as recklessly as it did under Mr. Kempthorne’s predecessor, Gale Norton, and even the administration’s natural allies have finally had enough.

Last Friday, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership sued the Interior Department to protest the recent authorization of 2,000 new oil and gas wells, along with 1,000 miles of roads and another 1,000 miles of pipeline in a wildlife-rich area of south-central Wyoming known as the Atlantic Rim. The suit accuses the bureau of multiple violations of federal law, including the requirement that it fully assess less destructive alternatives. It also notes that the bureau itself conceded that under its plan the “natural setting would be converted to an industrialized setting” with severe adverse impacts on mule deer, elk and pronghorn antelope.

The partnership has previously protested leases in sensitive areas of Montana, Utah and other Western states and registered dismay with the administration on a range of environmental issues. This is its first lawsuit against the government, and one it did not undertake lightly — in part because it is not a litigious group and partly because the hunters and anglers who make up the bulk of its membership tend to be largely Republican.

That the partnership is now going to court shows how distasteful the administration’s public lands policies have become and how little they have changed since Vice President Dick Cheney, in his notorious energy report, ordered up a full-court press for domestic oil and gas resources regardless of the environmental consequences. Like other conservation groups, the partnership has never disputed the need to develop supplies of natural gas, nor has it objected to responsible development undertaken at a measured pace with due regard for other values, including the protection of wildlife.

What drove the partnership over the edge and into court was the sheer one-sidedness of the administration’s approach, as well as its reckless disregard for the law, and if that does not get Mr. Kempthorne’s attention, nothing will.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home