Sunday, December 04, 2016


By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            I came out of the Burris Pasture yesterday and pulled to a stop.
            The realization was that I was content. So few times in my life has that been the case. Life has largely been a continuum of anxiety and worry. Always the unknowns and the responsibilities of making a business work have been the byline. BJ and I had just set a big concrete trough in place in what has previously been a drylot without a water source. We didn’t have all the parts to plumb it, but the big job of moving and setting it was done. It was one of the myriad of little jobs that have been on my radar for a long time.
            Order was the source of the contentment.
            That water would provide an opportunity to hold cattle in our headquarter pens and not worry about mixing worked and unworked cattle if completion can’t be concluded on the day of work. That was becoming a reality as was the tying in of a mile of new pipeline from a system with a bigger supply of water to a system with a marginal supply of water. Redundancy and adequate water are most important in our desert environment. It is a welcome luxury much like the feeling and the novelty of having hope in the actions and the anticipated changes in the impact by our federal government over the next several years.
            Perhaps we can believe that our presence on federal lands can actually be aligned with hope and assurance of a reasonable, brighter future. That certainly hasn’t been the case in the past.
            The Westerner has reported Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has been out suggesting a better message should have been sent from the Democrats to rural America. “The Democratic Party in my opinion, has not made as much of an effort as it ought to, to speak to rural voters,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press. “…we actually have something we can say to them, and we have chosen, for whatever reason, not to say it.”
            The truth of this matter is there have been reams of documents communicated to rural America over the last eight years. In fact, this administration recently set a record for compiling 527 pages of regulatory expansion in the Federal Register in a single day! The fellow in the White House has added to his pummeling of rural America by just breezing through page 81,640 of 2016 Federal Register announcements. That eclipses his previous record of 81,405 pages and elevates him onto the throne as champion wordsmith seven of the eight most regulated years in American history.
            As the Westerner concluded, “It’s not the message (Vilsack), it’s what you actually did. Violating property rights, attempting to steal water, running ranch families off federal lands, etc. etc. is your problem. And the message was received.”
            A cursory review through the most recent Register supports that premise and much more. The extraction of private water rights in Montana by Vilsack’s USFS is in the offing, the sidestepping of enforcing the law on the southern border where 99% of the marijuana and methamphetamines seized on all borders has come from, reneging on signed fluid mineral lease contracts on Colorado’s western slope, and keeping pace to cut 90% of all green house gases by 2050 are current examples of the regulatory race to the finish that is being shaped by unitary administrative actions on matters that negatively impact rural America.
            The fact is rural America has heard enough words from this administration. When the intent of all these words is conditional on what is not best for rural communities, no amount of framing and couching of the lofty rhetoric is going to work. We are word weary.
We are tired of all unitary executive actions.
            There is an interesting development coming out of Texas, but the trail starts with expansion of land and maritime national monuments and the aforementioned lease cancellations in Colorado. When Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper and BLM officials announced days ago in a fashionable “fly over” Denver press conference to a selected crew of press operatives that 25 gas leases on Colorado’s western slope had been summarily terminated ten years after issuance something wasn’t adding up. No, it wasn’t the fact that Jewell didn’t extend the courtesy of announcing the media event or fulfilling the mandate to inform the various local cooperating agencies of the administration’s midnight record of decision of same, nor was it the devastating impact on leaseholders who have invested millions of dollars in the Southern Piceance Basin and Roan Plateau on the basis of promises given and then taken away by a lawless federal government. What is most mystifying is a parallel announcement by the U.S. Geological Survey down in West Texas that adds mystery to this sinister plot.
            When was the last time a federal agency announced with pomp and circumstance a bonafide energy find? This supposed find isn’t just an ordinary find, either. The USGS is suggesting it is the largest find in U.S. history! The problem is this “find”, the Wolfcamp Formation, a shale formation that underlies a big swath of the Permian Basin has been drilled and developed for some time. In fact, wildcatters were talking about the Wolfcamp in the 1950s. Back then, oil companies were seldom able to produce it. Occasionally, they would find a pocket of sand and it would be productive. There were some wells drilled in 2001 near Iraan in the formation with vertical completions that were productive. In the last 12 years between Midland, Garden City, Big Lake and Rankin, oil companies have been drilling long horizontals (5-10,000’) in the Wolfcamp with good success after performing massive frac jobs in the horizontals. Those wells came in producing 1000-1500 barrels per day, but within a year they have generally dropped to 250 barrels and by year three they are down to 50 barrels a day. By no means does this general theme suggest the USGS contention of imminent and certain success.
            Can you smell this rat?
            Could it be this is nothing but a scheme to seal this fellow’s legacy? Could he be visualizing himself as the “energy president” despite his crushing management on known deposits in and under federal protected lands?
            Just think of the logic.
            He is withdrawing the opportunities to develop known reserves by demand of influential environmental groups while at the same time trotting the USGS out to declare his administration has found the largest oil deposit in American history. On the basis of size, this Wolfcamp shale deposit probably has such potential if fracking technology continues to develop at the rate of success independent oil producers have demonstrated to the world. Since it is in Texas and out of the stifling purview of the federal government, he’s banking on the fact that there will be such success.
            He wins on both accounts. He defends the Left’s sacred federal reserves, and, at the same time, he becomes the unlikely energy president by announcing with gusto a green light special toward the potential of the Wolfcamp formation.
            As in the sage words of our Texas friend and midnight philosophy collaborator, Luke Shipp, “It is an old technique known as pencil whipping which produces the desired outcome of the pencil operator.”
            I am sure Luke is suggesting that words, “just words”, can be manipulated to imply anything they want them to be. We just need to see results, and that, dear friends and neighbors, is exactly why Donald Trump has been elected president of our United States.

            Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “These Democrats simply insist on partisan politics over people.”

Wilmeth mentions the phenomenal growth in the number of federal regulations. Those regulations impose a huge cost on our society. The costs were recently summarized by Paul Driessen:

Federal land, resource and environmental agencies have unleashed tsunamis of regulations in recent years, and President Obama is poised to issue many more before January 20. The total cost of complying with federal rules was about $1 trillion annually in 2006. It has since doubled, raising the federal reporting and compliance burden to $6,000 per person per year, through late-2016.

The Obama Administration has thus far imposed some $743 billion of those new costs, via 4,432 new rules requiring 754 million hours of paperwork, according to a new American Action Forum analysis. The $2 trillion cumulative annual tab is more than all federal individual and corporate taxes collected in 2015; includes 10 billion hours dealing with paperwork; and does not include state or local regulations. Land use and environmental compliance costs account for a sizable and growing portion of this total.

These costs hogtie innovation, job creation and economic growth. They make millions unemployed.

Let's hope there is an initial surge in the number of pages under Trump. Why would I say that? Because most revocations and revisions must first be published in the Federal Register and that would indicate they are actually doing something.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

........"The realization was that I was content. So few times in my life has that been the case. LIFE HAS LARGELY BEEN A CONTINUUM of ANXIETY and WORRY. Always the unknowns and the responsibilities of making a business work have been the byline.".....

It was the eco's movement that did that to us, and I or we did nothing to harm them.

That struck a chord. I know the feeling to well.
When Property Rights and Rights are restored I hope to have that feeling of contentment again.