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Crossposted from: UNBOSSED

On November 27, 2006 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its latest inventory of oil and gas resources on more than 99 million acres of federal land - most of this land in the West. The report is known as EPCA II (EPCA = Energy Policy Conservation Act) and is yet another example of how the Bush administration has no hesitation to  misuse science and lie like hell to acheive whatever end its oil and gas bosses demand.

Lets look at EPCA II and what you can do about it.

So, what did they do this time??!!?  Well, in this case, the Bush administration manipulated data to override key conclusions of its previous EPCA report (which I will discuss below).  The writers of the report clearly had a pre-determined goal of supporting the oil & gas industry’s thirst to open more Western public lands and national forests to drilling.  The previous report, it must be noted, pointed out that the industry has tremendous access to drill our public lands, this new report fiddles with data to misleadingly suggest that industry faces onerous “restrictions and impediments” to oil and gas development on public lands, when in fact the Administration’s aggressive polices of opening up more sensitive lands to development is putting wildlife, and other environmental values at grave risk.

For those of you who regularly read my diaries you will recognize the following quote:

88% of the region's “technically recoverable” natural gas and 85% of the “technically recoverable” oil on federal lands are currently available for leasing and development.

That information comes from the origional EPCA report published in January 2003 and mandated by amendments to the Energy Policy Conservation Act in 2000 (thus, EPCA).  It reflects the reality on the ground.  Of that 88% available, 63% is available without any restrictions whatsoever, the rest with only minor restrictions.  Not only is there very little natural gas in the West (see below) but most of it is already open to development.  Therefore, there is no need to promote drilling in the most sensitive of our lands.

Of course this conclusion runs totally contrary to what the Bush Administration would have us believe.  And we know how this administration works: if reality does not match up with the way you WANT the world to be....well, then, just try to change reality.  So, in 2005, at industry's behest, the Bush Administration commissioned a new report, changing all the perameters of the study (not accounting for proven reserves and lands undergoing Resource Management Plan (RMP) revision, and using technically recoverable estimates instead of economically recoverable make....I'll discuss these problems in more detail below) and remaking definitions to suit thier goals of opening more Federal lands to development.


Basically, EPCA II substantially expanded its inventory of oil and gas resources on federal lands potentially available for lease.  It said that around 51% of oil acreage and 27% of natural gas lands were closed to leasing under current laws.  According to the Dow Jones newswire (sorry no link);

The BLM nearly doubled its acreage inventoried to 99 million acres, including six new oil and gas basins, and said it estimated around 21 billion barrels of oil and 187 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lay under those federal lands.

It added, however, "just 3% of onshore federal oil and 13% of onshore federal gas are accessible under standard lease terms." It said that only 46% of onshore federal oil and 60% of onshore federal gas may be developed subject to additional restrictions.

Although the new report included new acreage in the Southeast U.S. and the Appalachian Mountains, most of the additional acreage and estimated resources are from lands on the Alaskan North Slope. Most of that acreage, including in the closed Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and the partially opened National Petroleum Reserve Alaska, is currently inaccessible for leasing. BLM officials estimated 35% of the 21 billion barrels is in ANWR.


In case you want to follow along as we tear the new report to shreads, EPCA II can be accessed here. In addition to the release, there are links to the report, a comparison chart of EPCA I and II, and a Q&A.

  1.  The report leaves out the Interior Department’s own estimates of “proved reserves” in the Rockies. According to the Q&A (#7), estimates of “proved reserves” of oil and gas that have already been drilled were omitted from the analysis.  Including these estimates – 444 million barrels of oil and over 35 trillion cubic feet of natural gas – would have portrayed a much different picture of the actual “access” the oil and gas industry has to these resources in the Rocky Mountain West. (BLM has tried to minimize the implications of leaving them out by saying it’s “only” 5%, but those omitted reserves are all in the Rocky Mountain study areas, so they are a much greater percentage of the total amount of federal oil and gas in that region – especially the estimated natural gas resources.) Nevertheless, it is important to understand that even with the omission of these key resources from the analysis, EPCA II indicates that 87% of the oil and 86% of the natural gas occurring on federal lands in the Rocky Mountain West are accessible for development. That is, when you dont fiddle with the definitions, the result is the same as EPCA I.
  1.  The report puts oil and gas resources covered by “non-surface occupancy” (NSO) stipulations into the “inaccessible” category.  Because the oil and gas resources under these leased lands can be accessed via directional drilling techniques, categorizing them as inaccessible exaggerates the amount of resources that are off-limits to the industry.
  1.  The BLM ignored its own data on waivers/exceptions to protective wildlife “stipulations” on federal oil and gas leases. The report suggests that protective wildlife stipulations are burdensome and are waived in a very low percentage of cases, which directly contradicts actual data available from key BLM Field Office websites. For example, in the booming Pinedale Field Office and Rawlins areas, published BLM data indicates that the Rawlins Field Office granted 72% of waiver requests between October 1 2005 and September 30, 2006, and up to 85% (depending on species) in the Pinedale Field Office last year. Ignoring its own data, and instead basing conclusions about the impacts of wildlife stipulations on industry “access” to oil and gas resources based on speculation, may amount to “political science,” but it’s not “sound science.”  
  1.  The BLM ignored the economic costs associated with production. Sound energy policy should be based on sound economic analyses ALSO. The BLM is exaggerating the amount of gas and oil supposedly off-limits by erroneously relying on estimates of “technically recoverable” gas and oil rather than relying on estimates of economically recoverable gas and oil as recommended by the Congressional Research Service and many economists. By contrast, when renewable energy technologies are recommended as alternatives to our reliance on oil and gas, the oil and gas industry frequently invokes arguments regarding their economic feasibility. Yet when it comes to oil and gas, industry and their advocates in government ignores the high costs associated with drilling in the Rockies. It is technically feasible to directionally drill from 5-6 miles away, but industry always complains about the cost. Economics does matter. I'll talk about this more below.
  1.  The BLM apparently placed significant estimates of oil and gas resources in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska in the "inaccessible" category because -- although though they are in the process of planning for future lease sales on millions of acres -- they haven’t issued leases in many instances. Their omission once again leaves an erroneous impression regarding the nature of alleged “restrictions and impediments” to the development of federal oil and gas resources.
  1.  The numbers do not compute.  Only 10% (26 million acres) of BLM's lands are tied up in the National Landscape Conservation System which includes NCAs, National Monuments, Wilderness, Wilderness Study Areas, National Scenic and Historic Trails, Wild and Scenic Rivers and include the Headwaters Forest Reserve, White Mountains National Recreation Area and Steens Mountain National Cooperative and Protection Area.  Beyond this 10% of lands, I wonder what else they might be referring to as "off limits".  


We Westerners can attest that, the reality on the ground is far different than what the report suggests.  I dont have to drive far to find a spot where industry is actively raping public lands. We are undergoing an unprecedented oil and gas boom. Right now, 36 million acres of public lands under lease for oil & gas development.  The BLM will process 10,000 new drilling permits in FY2007.  That is 10k on top of the 20,000  permits issued during the past  five years: Again, as I've noted before, this is so many permit that the industry has been unable to drill on all of them. The BLM is planning to unload another 100,000 wells on us over the next 10 years!

We know this report to be a lie.  Consider:

In a Nov. 29 story in the Grand Junction Sentinel (sorry no link), reporter Bobby Magill noted that 80 percent of all federal land in the Uinta-Piceance Basin in Western Colorado and Eastern Utah is available for oil and gas leasing, leaving only 17.5 percent unavailable in that particular basin.  The EnCana spokesman quoted in the article, Doug Hock, was quoted by Magill as saying:

"We have a good inventory to work from, I don't believe that those (environmental stipulations) would have a tremendous impact."

Apparently, even one of the biggest producers in the Rocky Mountain West doesnt buy what the Bush Administration's trying to dump on us.

Another example.  Now, even IF you take the EPCA II numbers at face value (and  I dont suggest that you do), the San Juan/Paradox Basin of New Mexico is the “least restrictive basin” for natural gas of those analyzed in the report.  According to the report, the Paradox/San Juan Basin has 93% of its natural gas resource available for drilling.  The 93% available for drilling/leasing is the highest of any basin studied in the report, edging out the Greater Green River Basin by about 1% (remember, this 93% doesn’t mean 93% of the land, it means that 93% of the gas can be extracted, some with additional leasing stipulations, some with standard leasing stipulations)  77% of the oil is available also in this basin. So, when the two new basins are added, a full 80% of both the gas and oil resources are available for development in the greater Rocky Mountain region.  So, even using the BLM's own twisted can figure out that the conclusions of the report dont actually match the data IN the report.


All you have to do is look at places like that Piceance, Green River and Powder leases to demonstrate that the claims that modern environmental laws are holdin up rapid full-field development is a lie.  According to my friends up in WY, even the pilot projects can't keep up with the boom.

The Lack of Natural Gas on our Public Lands

The problem for the USA is that our oil and natural gas reserves are exceedingly tiny compared to our consumption.  The USA holds about 3 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves and about 3 percent of the world’s proven natural gas reserves, and consumes about 25 percent of the world’s oil production and about 24 percent of the world’s natural gas production. For example, in 2004-2005 we exhausted about 10 percent of its natural gas to meet economic demand.  That should make it clear that we are quickly depleting our reserves.  Out current natural gas demand is about 24 Trillion cubic feet (Tcf) per year.  That is projected to rise beyond 30 Tcf per year by 2010.  Where is it going to come from?  Not public lands.  We are going to have to import it as liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the countries, mostly in Asia, where natural gas exists in significant amounts.

Drilling all of the oil and natural gas basins in North America is not going to meet our demands nor offer meaningful energy solutions.  Nor will drilling these basins affect prices in any significant way.  Drilling these basins will not influence “energy security,” nor will such drilling alter the momentum of the global business of exporting and importing oil and natural gas.  The USA is in no position – now or ever – to drill its way to “energy independence” from foreign oil and gas unless our consumption falls dramatically to be in line with our resources.

I know I've made that point before but I want to make it again and again.  WE AINT GOT THE GAS.

I want to make that point clear by looking at individual basins.  For a look at individual basins, check out the home page for the USA National Oil and Gas Assessment.  Versions of this report have been published and continuously updated by the U.S. Geological Survey for about a century.  Its a confusing site so I want to use the Raton Basin as an example.  The Raton Basin of New Mexico and Colorado is the home of the Valle Vidal.
Click on “Raton Basin” on the main map.  That takes you to a page that shows no assessment results.  However, clicking on “Related Links-Factsheet also available” takes you to  a summary fact sheet on Raton Basin oil and gas resources and reserves.  Look for these Fact Sheets for other basins as well.  Then, look at either the .pdf or HTML version of the fact sheet, and scroll down to the paragraph, “Resource Summary.”  The first line says, “The USGS assessment of undiscovered conventional oil and gas and undiscovered continuous (unconventional) oil and gas within the province resulted in mean estimates of 2.35 trillion cubic feet of gas (TCFG) and 28.1 million barrels of total natural gas liquids (table 1).”  

Thus, 2.35 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas is the technically and economically recoverable natural gas estimated for the Raton Basin as of 2004.  This number can be easily compared with other numbers, such as USA current annual consumption of natural gas (about 24 Tcf). Then, just do the math.  All of the currently recoverable natural gas in the entire Raton Basin, if it could be extracted and sent to market all at once (which is impossible and note that much of it, while technicaly recoverable may not by economically recoverable under all situations), would serve economic demand for the USA for about....1.2 months.

In other words. WE AINT GOT THE GAS!!

The timing of the EPCA II report is, as usual, terrible.  At a time when more Americans are looking to and investing in so-called 'alternative energies' such as wind and solar (as well as conservation), this report is a knife in the back. This Administration is determined to get in the way of America's CAN DO ability and keep us in the dark ages of energy.  When the reality points to the facts that 1. the United States can never be "energy independent" so long as we rely on fossil fuels and 2. most of the fossil fuel resources in our nation are already available to industry, this Administration instead chooses to lie to the American people in order to stifle our advancement.  Also, though the report was clearly designed to provide the energy industry with arguments to open more Federal land in the West, it instead shows that reasonable protections that protect our air, water, land and wildlife are appropriate and do not restrict energy development.


TAKE ACTION fellow Kossacks.  My request to you is that you steal, crib, copy and plagerize as you need from this post and write a letter to the editor of your local paper (better yet an op-ed if you get a chance) pointing out what a lie this report is  and how much it will set us back as we seek solutions to our nation's energy crises.  Please editorialize to urge Congress to scrutinize this flawed new report.


Valle Vidal  (VICTORY!!!)
Otero Mesa, New Mexico
HD Mountains, Colorado
Roan Plateau, Colorado
Upper Green River Valley, Wyoming
Grand Mesa Slopes, Colorado
Vermillion Basin, Colorado
Rocky Mountain Front, Montana  (VICTORY!!)
Wyoming Range, Wyoming
Red Desert, Wyoming
Redrock Wilderness, Utah
Beartooth Front, Wyoming
Clear Fork Divide, Colorado


Most of the credit to this analysis goes to my amigos:

William Brown, Coaltion for the Valle Vidal
Todd Malmsbury, Resource Media
Heath Nero, The Wilderness Society
David Slater, The Wilderness Society
Pete Morton, The Wilderness Society

Originally posted to environmentalist on Mon Dec 11, 2006 at 02:03 PM PST.

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