Sequestration Causes 70,000 Kids To Be Kicked Off Head Start, But Big Oil Complains About Small, Delayed Lease Sales

Across-the-board cuts to government programs that went into effect in March, known as sequestration, are impacting Americans’ daily lives in many ways.

For example, up to 70,000 children will be cut from Head Start education programs, the budget of the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be slashed by $1 billion, and approximately 3,000 jobs at national parks will likely be affected.

Despite the breadth of major impacts, the oil and gas industry had the gall last week to complain that the Bureau of Land Management, the agency which oversees leasing on public lands, delayed two small lease sales in California until October “due to budget constraints resulting from the sequester.”

The Institute for Energy Research, a non-profit backed by the Koch brothers, wrote in a press statement that the Obama administration is planning to “maximize the sequester’s harm to the U.S. economy.” And the American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s main lobbying group, said the decision would kill jobs and stifle economic growth.

What is important to note is that the two delayed lease sales would have auctioned off approximately 3,300 acres of public lands. But what the industry declined to say was that over the last month, the Bureau of Land Management auctioned off 132,941 acres of public lands in other states. Two other lease sales in California between now and September will also be canceled or delayed.

This belligerence is just another example of how the oil and gas industry has it all but wants even more, or, as the New York Times put it last year, “the score card shows the industry is winning.” Oil and gas companies reap many other benefits when it comes to public lands and waters. For example, they get a lower royalty rate than in many states and are not drilling more than 7,000 permits that they already own onshore.

The industry also has extraordinary access to the White House, seen for example in the fact that its representatives met more than 20 times in 2012 with staff behind closed doors in advance of new rules about hydraulic fracturing on public lands. Not to mention that the top five oil companies made a combined $30 billion in profits in just the first quarter of 2013.