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oil drilling on public land
Oil drilling on public land in Wyoming.
While the government shutdown has locked visitors and concessionaires out of America's national parks (at a cost to local communities of $76 million a day), and most federal overseers of other public lands have been furloughed, mining and energy companies are continuing their operations on those lands. Big surprise, eh?

This irks Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation. He has, therefore, sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell asking them to stop these operations until the shutdown ends:

Despite the federal government shutdown making national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges and many other important sites unavailable to the public, oil and gas drilling and other extraction activities continue on our federal public lands. The lack of oversight of these potentially hazardous activities greatly concerns me, especially because of the scarcity of manpower to respond to emergencies, pollution issues or other rapid response needs.

I am equally concerned about the many businesses that rely on our public lands. Concessionaires that operate facilities within our public parks and other federal lands have been locked out by the shutdown. So have river and trail guides who rely on public lands and waterways to make a living. Small businesses cannot afford to be cut off from their main—in some cases sole—source of income.

This disparity greatly disturbs me, as does the ongoing environmental risk to sensitive outdoor areas. I urgently request the immediate cessation of mining, drilling and other extractive activities on our federal public lands until we end the shutdown and cease the lockout of federal employees and visitors.

Disparities are not, of course, something that matters to the Republicans who have dumped the shutdown on us. Indeed, they seek to increase disparity everywhere they can. And they, together with some Democratic enablers, have done a damn good job of it.

Given the special favors Congress already lards on energy companies, expect to see an outcry from the shutdown's creators if Vilsack and Jewell take Grijalva's request seriously.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Thu Oct 03, 2013 at 11:03 AM PDT.

Also republished by Baja Arizona Kossacks, DK GreenRoots, Climate Change SOS, Backyard Science, and Daily Kos.

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