By Ben Geman - 01/11/10 07:18 PM EST
“I only half-heartedly joke with those in industry that, during the prior administration, their names were chiseled above the chairs outside the office of the Assistant Secretary for Lands and Minerals,” he writes. “With the changes announced yesterday, I fear that we are merely swapping the names above those same chairs to environmental interests, giving them a stranglehold on an already cumbersome process.”
Natural gas development in Wyoming has boomed over the last decade. Royalties from oil and gas production on federal lands is an important source of cash for some states, which receive half of federal leasing and royalty revenues.
Wyoming’s share of federal royalties collected in fiscal year 2009 totaled almost $1 billion, according to Interior’s Minerals Management Service.
Salazar, in rolling out the leasing changes last week, said he favors oil and gas development, but also claimed that the Bush administration allowed the industry to hold too much sway over leasing decisions.
“The difference is that under the prior administration, the oil and gas industry were essentially the kings of the world. Whatever they wanted to happen essentially happened. This department was essentially a handmaiden of the oil and gas industry,” Salazar told reporters Wednesday. “We have brought that to an end."