Washington, D.C. (January 12, 2016) – In response to President Obama’s final State of the Union address to Congress, Western Caucus Chairman Cynthia Lummis (WY-At large) issued the following statement on the state of the West:
“Reviewing the executive’s past seven years of manufacturing regulations, designating land unilaterally, empowering Washington, killing energy jobs, burying agriculture under red tape, and fiddling as the West burns shows President Obama and his Administration have utterly failed the West. But as this regime enters its final year, we can see light at the end of the tunnel at last.
“The future holds the key; it holds the opportunity to enact the reforms that Western members of Congress have been pushing these past seven years to open opportunity and enhance stewardship throughout the West and across the country. With new leadership we will have a chance to boost energy production on federal land that has plummeted under this Administration. We can protect the multiple-use of public lands in our backyards that President Obama would rather shove under lock and key.
“We will finally have a chance to address the failed federal policies of management by abandonment that has left millions of acres of land throughout the West at the mercy of wildfire. We can reinforce local control over our resources, especially our water, the lifeblood of the American West.
“I and my colleagues from both the East and West will continue fighting regulations and policies that hurt our constituents and families during President Obama’s last year in office. We will also continue developing a pro growth agenda and keep the pressure on Washington, D.C. to right the wrongs done to the West.
“Communities in the West and throughout America want only the opportunity to create jobs, grow their economies, lower costs, and care for the land where they live. Locally-driven policies of stewardship are the key to a prosperous America that will maintain and foster the health of our natural resources.”
Details on the State of the West under President Obama:
Monument Designations: Obama has designated or expanded 19 National Monuments, locking up over 2 million acres of public land, including numerous designations in the West.
· 738,885 acres in New Mexico
· 726,660 acres in Nevada
· 691,828 acres in California
· A leaked document from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lists 19 more areas as monument designation candidates in President Obama’s final year – all of them in Western states.
Wildfire and Forest Management: Last year the administration refused to accept common-sense legislative changes to forest management policy to keep our forests stronger and more resilient to wildfire, pests, and disease.
· Wildfires across the West burned almost 10 million acres, the most on record.
· The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) considers 58 million acres of forest at high risk for wildfire, roughly one third of the total National Forest System,
· The USFS FY 2016 budget request reveals they plan on thinning less than three percent of these forests.
· The USFS spends over half of its annual budget on fire suppression compared to spending 16 percent spent on fire suppression in 1995.
Endangered Species Act: Federal agency and court endangered species actions continue to bluntly hammer western communities and stifle state and local conservation efforts.
· The Department of the Interior imposed 10 million acres of mineral withdrawals and onerous land use plans across the West in the name of protecting the Greater Sage Grouse, all despite unprecedented state and local conservation efforts and investments that avoided a federal listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
· The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) listed the long-eared bat as threatened in 37 states despite white nosed syndrome, not human activity, being the sole cause of the bat’s decline.
· Federal courts threw the Wyoming and Western Great Lakes wolf populations back on the endangered list despite the success of federally-approved state management plans in recovering the species.
Energy Production: The United States propelled itself to the number one producer of oil and natural gas in the world in spite of federal policies, not because of them.
· Since 2010, natural gas production on non-federal lands has risen 37%, while natural gas production on federal lands has dropped by 30%.
· Oil production on non-federal lands has increased by 88%, while oil production on federal lands has declined by 10%.
· It still takes an average of 227 days for the federal government to issue a permit to drill, while it takes an average of 30 days for similar permits from state governments.
Proposed Royalty Increases: Secretary Jewell announced the BLM is considering increasing royalty rates on oil and gas production on federal lands, and changes to the coal leasing program that will discourage production.
· Fiscal year 2013 royalties from coal, oil, and gas added up to over $4.1 billion for federal, state, and tribal governments.
· These moves to discourage production jeopardize the return for taxpayers and our energy security, particularly with already lagging production on federal lands.
· Coal mining has lost jobs in every month of 2015, including 7,500 in December alone.
Regulatory Burden: Rules and regulations finalized in 2015 will have significant and harmful effects on the West and are clogging the courts with challenges to their overreach.
· Waters of the United States (WOTUS), currently stayed by judicial ruling.
· BLM Hydraulic Fracturing rule, currently stayed by judicial ruling.
· Greenhouse Gas regulations for new and existing sources (Clean Power Plan), facing multiple legal challenges.
· Surface-level ozone standards, facing multiple legal challenges.