Donald Trump’s America is not the great outdoors. Neither is Department of Interior secretary Bernhardt’s, nor Bureau of Land Management director Pendley’s. If it were, these men would not be opening huge swaths of land near Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks to oil/gas drilling leases. Instead, they would decry the truck and extraction noise that is sure to permeate our parks, the 24/7 lighting and flares that will invade dark skies, the industrial views that will interrupt pristine skylines.
These leases are not economic drivers. Bidding starts at $2 per acre, and rarely rises above that. Companies have up to 10 years to develop leases and are often granted extensions. If an oil/gas company starts extracting, it pays a tiny 12.5% royalty on earnings — only half of which goes to the state. (Companies with producing wells have received royalty reductions due to COVID-19; no reductions have been given to solar or wind installations.)
In 1981, Secretary of the Interior James Watt famously prayed to be evacuated from a float trip in the Grand Canyon, which he described as “incredibly boring.” Not since Watt has the powerful beauty of the West been so flagrantly dismissed. Are Utahns really ready to sacrifice so much, for so little?
Salt Lake City