by Tom Kenworthy
Testifying before a House subcommittee today, Mitt Romney’s chief energy adviser assured lawmakers that the candidate’s energy plan would not lead to oil and gas drilling in U.S. national parks and monuments.
“Nobody’s talking about parks and monuments,” said Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources, Inc, who is also the lead architect of the Romney energy plan unveiled last month. That plan proposes giving states control over energy development on federal lands, a dramatic and unprecedented shift in the management of hundreds of millions of acres of public lands.
Hamm’s assurance about not drilling in national parks is one good step. But there are still many other questions about Romney’s plan for energy development on public lands left unanswered.
Like many of his policy positions, the Romney energy plan and its proposed changes for control over drilling on federal lands is quite vague on details. The plan says the state management would not include “lands specifically designated off-limits,” but did not identify which lands would fall into that category.
What about the more than 100 million acres in the U.S. protected by Congress since 1964 as wilderness? What about national wildlife refuges? What about national forest and rangeland areas with interim wilderness protections pending decisions by Congress on whether to include them in the full wilderness system? What about wild and scenic river corridors? What about areas of critical environmental concern overseen by the Bureau of Land Management? What about national recreation areas?
In a report released yesterday based on data provided by the National Park Service, the Center for American Progress identified 30 units of the national parks system that could be drilled for oil and natural gas. A dozen park service units already have oil and gas operations.
Daniel J. Weiss, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, referenced that report during his testimony to the energy and power subcommittee today. Trading federal oversight of drilling on public lands for state control could lead to oil and gas development in Everglades National Park and the Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania, explained Weiss.
Clearly alarmed by the potential political ramifications of drilling in some of America’s most revered landscapes, GOP members of the subcommittee rushed to explain that Romney’s plan envisions no such things.
“No one’s talking about putting an oil well on a sacred site like” the Flight 93 Memorial, said Rep. Morgan Griffin (R-Va.). “The Romney plan specifically excludes lands that are designated as off limits.”
That’s good to hear. But there are still plenty of other details within Romney’s plan that haven’t been addressed.
Tom Kenworthy is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.