Bill To Give States Control Of Oil And Gas Drilling On Federal Lands Won’t Pass, Expert Says

Originally published on January 29, 2019 11:09 am

A group of Western lawmakers have reintroduced legislation that would give states control of oil and gas projects on federal lands.

U.S. Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyo. argues that putting states in charge of managing resources will remove excess red tape and make it easier for companies to drill responsibly on federal lands.  

“Putting states in the driver’s seat will cut down permitting delays, create jobs, promote economic growth and increase America’s energy dominance,” Barrasso said in a statement.

But identical legislation introduced last year died in the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Eric Austin, a political science professor at Montana State University, believes the chances of it passing now are slim – especially with a Democratically-controlled U.S. House. But conservative lawmakers in the West have been trying to pass legislation like this for years.

“It’s largely symbolic,” Austin said. “It’s something that a portion of their constituents feel is really important. Control of federal lands and federal energy resources is an issue that has arisen here in the West going back probably at least as far as the 1980’s and the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion.”

The Sagebrush Rebellion was a movement sparked during the 1970s and 80s among miners, ranchers and industry representatives who wanted more local control over federal lands. But Austin said transferring management isn’t a top priority among Republican lawmakers outside of the region, so the issue gains little traction.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

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