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Legacy of an Energy Boom

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJune 3, 2010 8:50 PM


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Yesterday, I took an expansive, meta perspective on who's responsible for climate change and the U.S. addiction to fossil fuels. But make no mistake, the legacy of George W. Bush's two terms, in all things related to domestic energy development, from deliberate lax oversight to eye-popping corruption, looms large today. Rebecca Lefton at The Center for American Progress (CAP) has written a very useful post and timeline, documenting how the federal government, under Bush, became a handmaiden to the oil and gas industry. I spent a lot of time in the 2000s covering the consequences from some of the events and policies that Lefton highlights. My focus was on the coalbed methane and natural gas boom in the West. The searing impacts never really gained critical mass in the mainstream media and certainly were not much appreciated by the rest of the country. But the industry imprint chokehold was (and still is) felt acutely in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, and New Mexico, where the gas drillers reign. Among the many stories I wrote, I chronicled the devastating impacts to ranchers, to wildlife, to archaeology, and to public health. I wrote so much (and in varied venues, such as Science, Mother Jones, and Backpacker) about BLM Utah's egregious capitulaton to the oil and gas industry that the state office in Salt Lake City stopped talking to me in 2008. None of what I documented in all these pieces has ever been challenged by BLM, nor has anyone ever been brought to account. While I'm on the subject of Utah, I should mention that Selma Sierra, the person who served as BLM's state director during the Bush Administration's second term (prior to that she was Gale Norton's chief of staff at Interior), was only just reassigned to Siberia the BLM Eastern States office, where she will serve in a "leadership position" overseeing the 30,000 surface acres in the 31 states east of the Mississippi. She's actually swapping positions with Juan Palma, who will now manage Utah's 23 million acres of public land. Sierra's legacy in Utah, like Bush's legacy in the West, will be felt for many years to come.

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