Utah and Herbert are leading the charge to gain access to land, but they aren’t alone. Lawmakers in the Arizona Senate have passed a bill similar to Utah’s while the legislatures in Idaho, New Mexico, Montana, Colorado are reportedly following Utah’s lead. The movement is relevant because President Obama has attempted to deflect blame for rising gasoline prices, but the only expansion of oil and gas leases has been on private lands. Due to his restrictions, extraction on federal land has fallen since he took office.
With federal restrictions out of the way, the oil-rich states of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Montana can unlock their resources that have been stuck under federal control, but environmental interests, will attempt to stop this. According to an Investors Business Daily editorial the western states have a good case. Eastern states have only small federally-owned parcels, while western states have large chunks. Even if the feds partially complied and some of the land became available, the economy and consumers would likely realize benefits in more jobs and relief at the gas pump. This could be years away, but Herbert will continue on his crusade for gas and oil drilling and tar sands extraction.
Herbert has demonstrated little or no interest in respecting environmental concerns. Just as his I-15 widening and expansion project ran roughshod through family farms and showed no interest in preserving Utah’s greenbelt, Herbert and his cronies continually demonstrate that they are disinterested in showing environmentalists and/or wilderness and outdoor recreation enthusiasts that he would do anything to protect wild spaces. The Utah State Legislature has a strong and deep distrust of the federal government. The Sagebrush Rebellion might be a good streak of rebelliousness, if we only knew Herbert and the legislature were not simply pandering to corporate special interests.