Thursday, September 27, 2012

Romney plan for handing drill permit decisions to states stirs debate in West

One of the primary planks of Mitt Romney's energy plan is re-igniting a decades-old debate in the West about who should control access to fossil fuels on federal lands. In a campaign speech in Hobbs, N.M., a few weeks ago, the GOP presidential nominee told the crowd, "I will set a national goal of North American independence by 2020. That means we produce all the energy we use in North America." In addition to opening up new areas for offshore drilling, Romney says his energy independence goal can be accomplished by speeding up the time it takes to get permits to drill on federal lands. The way to do that, he says, is by putting state regulators in charge of the federal process just as they already are on state and private lands. "On federal lands the permitting process to actually get anything done is extraordinarily slow. In North Dakota, it takes 10 days to get a permit for a new well. In Colorado, it takes 27 days. But do you know how long it takes the federal regulators to get you a permit to get on government land? On average, 307 days." The energy industry quickly applauded idea of taking the permitting process out of federal hands. "It makes sense to have wildlife biologists, people that are air and water experts that live and work around the land where it's going to be produced to be the ones that are making those decisions as opposed to some unaccountable government bureaucrat back in Washington, D.C.," said Tim Wigley, president of the nonprofit Western Energy Alliance. But environmental groups and others were just as quick to attack the idea...more

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