December 11, 2014

Bye bye birdie

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December 11, 2014 | Politico | Elana Schor and Alex Guillen

This line, in Politico’s story about sage grouse and the trillion dollar omnibus bill in Congress, says it all:

“….the humble bird is just another example of how Washington gets business done, with industry, environmentalists, pro- and anti-regulation advocates and lawmakers from both parties trading chits on issues like school nutrition, sleep rules for truckers and D.C.’s marijuana laws.”

One tiny paragraph added to the 1,600 page document bars the Obama Administration from putting two species of sage grouse on the endangered species list. Why is this such a big deal? If the grouse is protected, then hundreds of thousands of acres of potential oil and gas drill sites are off limits. The oil industry has been fighting the potential listing for years, and has developed what they believe to be adequate management plans to protect the bird. Now environmentalists and bird-lovers are up in arms over this last minute delay.

The sage grouse skirmish is the latest in a battle over who should manage oil and gas development – states or the federal government. As Western Energy Alliance spokesperson Kathleen Sgamma told Politico:  State-based plans “provide more certainty to oil and natural gas producers, rather than the one-size-fits-all approach that the federal government is on a path to impose.”