Noon: “Keep it in the ground” in the real world
“Keep it in the ground” is the new face of environmental fanaticism. The campaign is about all fossil fuels: oil, gas, and coal. Instead of an “all of the above” energy policy, when it comes to fossil fuels, they want “none of the above.”
While big news items fuel the fight, smaller, symbolic wins are part of the strategy. Introducing the plan late last year, The Hill states: “It stretches into local fights, over small drilling wells...”
Rio Rancho, New Mexico, is in Sandoval County — which currently has 600 oil-and-gas wells on tribal or federal lands. There, an Oklahoma company, SandRidge Energy Inc., is hoping to drill an exploratory well — which has already received approval from the state Oil and Conversation Division.
To begin drilling, SandRidge needs a zoning variance from the county. On Dec. 10, the Planning and Zoning Committee held a contentious meeting to hear public comment on the SandRidge application. So many wanted to speak, there wasn’t time, nor space, to accommodate them. Another meeting, in a larger venue, was scheduled for Jan. 28. There, dozens of people spewed generic talking points against fracking; speaking vaguely about pollution, earthquakes, and/or water contamination.
A few folks braved the hostile crowd and spoke in support of the project — only to be booed.
It was in this atmosphere that the Committee recommended that the County Commissioners deny the request. Essentially, they threw up their hands and acknowledged that they weren’t equipped to deal with the intricacies of the application — which is why such decisions are better made at the state levels, where there are engineers and geologists who understand the process.
The Sandoval County Commissioners may still approve the special use permit, as they are the final decision makers.
One day later, in California, another small band from the anti-fossil-fuel movement also celebrated an almost insignificant victory, but one that adds to the momentum.
On Jan. 29, a settlement was reached in a lawsuit environmental groups filed two years ago against two federal agencies that they claim permitted offshore fracking and other forms of high-pressure well stimulation techniques. The settlement requires public notice for any future offshore applications for fracking and acidification. Additionally, the agencies have agreed to provide what’s termed “a programmatic” environmental assessment of the potential impacts of such techniques on the coastal environment.
Press releases from the environmental groups imply government agencies were letting the oil companies run amok. In fact, the companies who’ve applied for drilling permits, followed a stringent application process — under which they were approved.
The settlement requires “a programmatic” environmental assessment be completed by May 28 — during which time “the agencies will withhold approval of drilling permits.” My sources explained that this was not a big deal. It is believed that once the assessment is complete, the existing requirements will be found to be appropriate and permitting can move forward.
This “settlement” is an example of the “local fights” that motive the “keep it in the ground” movement.
These two stories are a sampling of the battles being played out in county commissions and government agencies throughout America. As in these cases, a small handful of activists are shaping policy that affects all of us and impacts the economics of our communities by, potentially, cutting funding for education and public services.
“Keep it in the ground” is the new face of environmental activism. If those who understand the role energy plays in America and our freedoms don’t engage, don’t attend meetings and send statements, and don’t vote, the policy makers have almost no choice but to think these vocal few represent the many.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy.