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Was Stopping Nevada’s Fracking Rush Behind the Bundy Showdown?

Somewhat Reasonable - April 14, 2014, 3:38 PM

The story of rancher Cliven Bundy has captured an abundance of media attention and attracted supporters from across the West, who relate to the struggle against the federal management of lands. Bundy’s sister, Susan, was asked: “Who’s behind the uproar?” She blamed the Sierra Club, then Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), and then President Obama. She concluded her comments with: “It’s all about control”—a sentiment that is frequently expressed regarding actions taken in response to some endangered-species claim.

An Associated Press report describes Bundy’s battle this way: “The current showdown pits rancher Cliven Bundy’s claims of ancestral rights to graze his cows on open range against federal claims that the cattle are trespassing on arid and fragile habitat of the endangered desert tortoise.”

Bundy’s story has been percolating for decades—leaving people to question why now. The pundits are, perhaps, missing the real motive. To discover it, you have to dig deep under the surface of the story, below the surface of the earth. I posit: it is all about oil and gas.

On April 10, the Natural News Network posted this: “BLM fracking racket exposed! Armed siege and cattle theft from Bundy ranch really about fracking leases.” It states: “a Natural News investigation has found that BLM is actually in the business of raking in millions of dollars by leasing Nevada lands to energy companies that engage in fracking operations.”

This set off alarms in my head; it didn’t add up. I know that oil-and-gas development and ranching can happily coexist. Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, told me: “The ranching and oil-and-gas communities are the backbone of America. They are the folks who allow the rest of the nation to pursue their hearts’ desire secure in the knowledge that they will have food and energy available in abundant supply. These natural resource users have worked arm-in-arm for nearly a century on the same land. They are constantly developing and employing technologies for ever better outcomes.”

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wouldn’t be enduring the humiliating press it has received, as a result of kicking Bundy off of land his family has ranched for generations and taking away his prior usage rights, just to open up the land for oil-and-gas—the two can both be there.

The Natural News “investigation” includes a map from the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology that shows “significant exploratory drilling being conducted in precisely the same area where the Bundy family has been running cattle since the 1870s.” It continues: “What’s also clear is that oil has been found in nearby areas.”

Nevada is not a top-of-mind state when one thinks about oil and gas. Alan Coyner, administrator for the Nevada Division of Minerals, describes his state: “We are not a major oil-producing state. We’re not the Saudi Arabia of the U.S. like we are for gold and geothermal production.” The Las Vegas Review Journal reports: “When it comes to oil, Nevada is largely undiscovered country…. fewer than 1,000 wells have been drilled in the state, and only about 70 are now in production, churning out modest amounts of low-grade petroleum generally used for tar or asphalt. Since an all-time high of 4 million barrels in 1990, oil production in Nevada has plummeted to fewer than 400,000 barrels a year. More oil is pumped from the ground in one day in North Dakota—where the fracking boom has added more than 2,000 new wells in recent years—than Nevada produced in 2012.”

But, Nevada could soon join the ranks of the states that are experiencing an economic boom and job creation due to oil-and-gas development. And, that has got to have the environmental groups, which are hell-bent on stopping it, in panic mode. Until now, their efforts in Nevada have been focused on blocking big solar development.

A year ago, the BLM held an oil-and-gas lease sale in Reno. At the sale, 29 federal land leases, totaling about 56 square miles, were auctioned off, bringing in $1.27 million. One of the winning bidders is Houston-based Noble Energy, which plans to drill as many as 20 exploratory wells and could start drilling by the end of the year. Commenting on its acreage, Susan Cunningham, Noble senior vice president, said: “We’re thrilled with the possibilities of this under-explored petroleum system.”

The parcels made available in April 2013 will be developed using hydraulic fracturing, about which Coyner quipped: “If the Silver State’s first big shale play pays off, it could touch off a fracking rush in Nevada.” Despite the fact that fracking has been done safely and successfully for more than 65 years in America, the Center for Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Nevada-based senior scientist, Ron Mrowka, told the Las Vegas Review Journal: “Fracking is not a good thing. We don’t feel there is a safe way to do it.”

The BLM made the leases available after someone, or some company, nominated the parcels, and the process to get them ready for auction can easily take a year or longer. One year before the April 2013, sale, CBD filed a “60-day notice of intent to sue” the BLM for its failure to protect the desert tortoise in the Gold Butte area—where Bundy cattle have grazed for more than a century.

Because agencies like the BLM are often staffed by environmental sympathizers, it is possible that CBD was alerted to the pending potential oil-and-gas boom when the April 2013 parcels were nominated—triggering the notice of intent to sue in an attempt to lock up as much land as possible before the “fracking rush” could begin.

A March 25, 2014 CBD press release—which reportedly served as the impetus for the current showdown—states: “Tortoises suffer while BLM allows trespass cattle to eat for free in Nevada desert.” It points out that the Clark County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan purchased and then retired grazing leases to protect the endangered tortoise.

Once Bundy’s cattle are kicked off the land to protect the tortoise, the precedent will be set to use the tortoise to block any oil-and-gas development in the area—after all environmentalists hate cattle only slightly less than they hate oil and gas. Admittedly, the April 13 leases are not in the same area as Bundy’s cattle, however, Gold Butte does have some oil-and-gas exploration that CBD’s actions could nip in the bud. Intellihub reports: “The BLM claims that they are seizing land to preserve it, for environmental protection. However, it is obvious that environmental protection is not their goal if they are selling large areas of land to fracking companies. Although the land that was sold last year is 300 and some miles away from the Bundy ranch, the aggressive tactics that have been used by federal agents in this situation are raising the suspicion that this is another BLM land grab that is destined for a private auction.”

The Natural News Network also sees that the tortoise is being used as a scapegoat: “Anyone who thinks this siege is about reptiles is kidding themselves.” It adds: “‘Endangered tortoises’ is merely the government cover story for confiscating land to turn it over to fracking companies for millions of dollars in energy leases.” The Network sees that it isn’t really about the critters; after all, hundreds of desert tortoises are being euthanized in Nevada.

Though the Intellihub and Natural News Network point to the “current showdown” as being about allowing oil-and-gas development, I believe that removing the cattle is really a Trojan horse. The tortoise protection will be used to block any more leasing.

On April 5, 2014, CBD sent out a triumphant press release announcing that the “long-awaited” roundup of cattle had begun.

What I am presenting is only a theory; I am just connecting some dots. But over-and-over, an endangered or threated species or habitat is used to block all kinds of economic development. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the lesser prairie chicken and the huge effort ($26 million) a variety of industries cooperatively engaged in to keep its habitat from being listed as threatened. The effort failed and the chicken’s habitat was listed. In my column on the topic, I predicted that these listings were likely to trigger another sage brush rebellion that will challenge federal land ownership. The Bundy showdown has brought the controversy front and center.

For now, southern Nevada’s last rancher has won the week-long standoff that has been likened to Tiananmen Square. Reports state that “the BLM said it did so because it feared for the safety of employees and members of the public,” not because it has changed its position.

While this chapter may be closing, it may have opened the next chapter in the sage brush rebellion. The Bundy standoff has pointed out the overreach of federal agencies and the use of threatened or endangered species to block economic activity.

Categories: On the Blog

The Paycheck Fairness Act is the Wrong Solution

Somewhat Reasonable - April 14, 2014, 10:56 AM

On April 9, the United States Senate failed to move forward The Paycheck Fairness Act for a third time. The Act would change the language of the Equal Pay Act and disallow employers to use “factors other than sex” to deny women fair pay. The GOP voted as bloc against what Democrats called an obvious choice. The conclusion? The Republican Party STILL hates women.

As a Republican woman who allegedly hates myself, I want to highlight the rash and colorful language (spattered with untrue numbers) that the Democratic Party uses to claim they support us, the American women. On Tuesday, the Democratic Party tried to push forward a measure that works against women while the Republican Party supported the liberties and freedoms of the average American woman to choose what she wants out of her job and her life.

The elementary level math the U.S. Census Bureau managed to put together shows that women earn 77 cents to every dollar earned by a male. In reality, this number is wrong. Although this ‘fact’ was repeated rather publicly during the State of the Union, The United States Department of Labor highlights its falsities. About 60% of the pay gap can be accounted for through choice of occupation, major in college, hours worked per week, and time off. Instead of a 23 cent difference, we are now dealing with a 5 to 10 cent difference, depending on if a conservative or a liberal counting. To be fair, let’s take an average and say that women make 93 cents to every dollar a man makes. Why didn’t President Obama say this number is his SOTU? Because that would not convince women that the Republican Party hates them.

Although this small pay-gap is closing quickly, let’s say the federal government should do something about it right now. This leads me to why the Paycheck Fairness act is horribly restricting to the liberties and freedoms of businesses and women. The amount of red tape and burden this act puts on businesses is frightening. It opens up employers to endless litigation making them prove they did not discriminate, but that they also caught and accounted for any discrimination that may or may not have occurred at past employers. The bill asks for hiring employers to do the impossible, even though there are already laws in place to ensure women are protected at work.

Now let’s say you could care less about the burden placed on businesses. The law impedes on a woman’s most basic right to choose. Republicans are pro-choice?! In this case, yes. Nearly the entire wage gap is accounted for by personal choices made by women. We might not be explicitly choosing to earn less, but we choose our college majors, our careers, and to work part time. This bill takes away that choice. An employer will be so fearful of hiring a woman who accepts a lower salary from a man (likely due to her own choice to work less hours), that many women will be out of work. The cost and threat of litigation would not make it worth hiring a woman who wants a more flexible life style. Women will be unable to negotiate for themselves and will become the true victims of this Act.

I believe there are large cultural and stereotypical trends that push women to different majors, to stay home with children more, and to suffer the brunt of household work. That’s a problem that needs fixing. However, cutting off a woman’s right to choose the lifestyle and work she wants is not the way to fix grander social problems. We need change, but we do not need the Paycheck Fairness Act. If the federal government insisted on involving itself, then show women why the hard sciences might be the better choice, how to negotiate and increase salaries, and encourage men to share the work leave women usually take.

We are buying into a liberal vernacular that convinces us to be a victim. I refuse to be a victim. In my career I might ask for raises, pursue promotions, and fight for a better job or I might make a personal decision to work part time for my family. Either way, I want the option to choose.

 

 

Categories: On the Blog

Kathleen Sebelius’s Resignation Hands Republicans A Golden Opportunity

Somewhat Reasonable - April 12, 2014, 8:55 PM

Kathleen Sebelius is resigning, and Rachel Maddow is right to not be happy about it, not one little bit. For once, I completely agree with Maddow’s analysis.

This surprise resignation presents Republicans with an unexpected opportunity to refocus the conversation on Obamacare’s negatives, offers a chance to force vulnerable Senate Democrats to take a hard vote on Obamacare six months before the midterms, and serves to disrupt what had been a positive few days of media spin for the health care law into another conversation about its many failings.

About a month ago, in a conversation with a Senate Democratic aide, the topic of Sebelius – “Auntie K” – came up. The assumption was shared that there was no way Sebelius would be leaving HHS prior to the November midterm elections – indeed, the aide claimed that her position was essentially unassailable given the negative attention her resignation or firing would draw. And besides, any nomination fight, no matter who the nominee is, would quickly become an opportunity for Republican Senators to pile on while Democratic Senators were put in an awkward position. No, the conventional wisdom said Sebelius would stay, at least til November 2014.

So much for the conventional wisdom. Reaching out tonight to the aforementioned aide, and to Republican aides as well, I found unanimous surprise at the step – they learned it from the media, not from trial balloons from the administration. Perhaps this move really was a surprise driven by an attempt on the part of the White House to avoid a Donald Rumsfeld situation, where the embattled Defense Secretary was given a presidential vote of confidence just days prior to the 2006 election, and then had his resignation accepted a week later. Interestingly enough, in Erroll Morris’s The Unknown Known, Rumsfeld himself says he wishes George W. Bush had accepted his resignation two years earlier, in the wake of Abu Ghraib. Perhaps President Obama is learning from his predecessors’ second midterm mistake, or attempting to?

In any case, it appears that this resignation presents Republicans with a golden opportunity to reignite their crusade against Obamacare with Sylvia Burwell’s nomination as a proxy for all the problems with the law.Burwell is a political loyalist and a veteran of the shutdown fight with no record on health care, and will likely be coached to avoid answering questions about specific challenges with implementation at HHS. Senate Republicans actually have an advantage here in the wake of the Nuclear Option’s implementation: they can easily come up with a list of facts they claim the administration has hidden, details kicked aside, statutes ignored, and a host of other challenging questions on accountability over the implementation (and non-implementation) of the law. A list of every question Sebelius has dodged over the past several years would suffice. By demanding answers before the HHS nomination moves forward and refusing to rubber stamp the president’s pick, Republicans could force more vulnerable Democrats to take a vote that ties them both to the Nuclear Option and Obamacare six months before a critical election.

And Democrats know this. Here’s Tom Daschle talking to The Daily Beast:

While the invocation of the “nuclear option” by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last fall means that Burwell’s confirmation would only require 51 votes and not be subject to a filibuster, it doesn’t mean the process will be easy. Senate Republicans will surely use the process to push their message on Obamacare and to get more information about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act from the administration. Although Burwell was confirmed to head OMB by a vote of 96-0, Daschle cautioned that he thought she wouldn’t have an “easy ride.” As he noted because Obamacare “is such a contentious issue that will be reflected in the hearings.”

Other factions of the left are out there claiming that this resignation is a good thing – a sign of Sebelius’s huge success with Obamacare – not an acceptance of responsibility for Klendathu. But even if that’s what the White House thinks, Maddow’s frustration, in my view, is a wiser assessment of how this will play, and her description will be absolutely accurate if Republicans are smart enough to seize this opportunity. Maddow herself compared it to a sports team that “stops halfway through their victory lap to fire the coach” – no one thinks that’s the way it works. And given that Sebelius was just days ago committing to staying through November to see the next round of implementation through, only the most severe partisan is going to believe this wasn’t a step taken through the lens of 2014. Even the media frame on this from the New York Times, of all places, is “Sebelius Resigns After Troubles Over Health Site”.

A narrative this obvious writes itself. Anyone not interested in believing the lemon tree was haunted knows thinking otherwise is just pretending to enjoy a cool glass of turnip juice.

Follow Ben on Twitter.

[First published at The Federalist.]

Categories: On the Blog

Is lying About Climate Change Okay?

Somewhat Reasonable - April 10, 2014, 3:46 PM

Those of us who have chronicled the global warming hoax, now called “climate change”, know that it is based on decades of lies about carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gas” with predictions that the Earth will heat up and cause massive problems unless those emissions are drastically reduced by not using coal, oil and natural gas.

Two American think tanks, The Heartland Institute and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) have been among those exposing those lies for years. The lies have been generated and led by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“Despite the panel’s insistence that the Earth is getting hotter, five different datasets show that there have been no observable warming for 17 and a half years even as carbon dioxide levels have risen 12%,” notes Christopher Monckton, a science advisor to Britain’s former Prime Minister Thatcher. “The discrepancy between prediction and observation continues to grow.”

Recently, two Chinese assistant professors of economics, Fuhai Hong and Xiaojian Zhao, were published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. Their paper, “Information Manipulation and Climate Agreements”, openly advocated lying about global warming/climate change in order to get nations to sign on to the International Environmental Agreement.

“It appears that news media and some pro-environmental organizations,” they noted, “have the tendency to accentuate or even exaggerate the damage caused by climate change. This article provides a rationale for this tendency.”

Craig Rucker, CFACT’s Executive Director, responded to the Chinese authors saying “They’re shameless.” Theirs and others ends-justify-the-means tactics reflects the attitudes and actions of environmental organizations and serves as a warning to never accept anything they say on any aspect of this huge hoax.

CFACT’s President and co-founder, David Rothbard, noted that “Global warming skeptics have long charged that alarmists are over-hyping the dangers of climate change.” How long? Back in 1989, the late Stanford University professor, Stephen Schneider, said, “So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ which we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance between being effective and being honest.”

There is no “right balance” between telling lies and telling the truth when it comes to science or any other aspect of our lives. Suffice to say that thousands of scientists who participated in the IPCC reports over the years supported the lies, but many have since left and some have openly denounced the reports.

As the latest IPCC summary of its report has garnered the usual verbatim media coverage of its outlandish predictions, The Heartland Institute has released its own 1,062 page report from the “Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) called “Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts. An 18-page summery is available at http://climatechangereconsidered.org.

Among its findings:

- Atmospheric carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.

- There is little or no risk of increasing food insecurity due to global warming or rising atmospheric CO2 levels.

- Rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels do not pose a significant threat to aquatic life.

- A modest warming of the planet will result in a net reduction of human mortality from temperature-related events.
Based on hundreds of peer-reviewed studies, the NIPCC report is free of the lies that are found in the IPCC report whose studies have been, at best, dubious, and at worst, deliberately deceptive.In light of the natural cooling cycle the Earth has been in that is good news and it will be even better news when the planet emerges from the cycle that reflects the lower levels of radiation from the Sun.

On March 31, CNS News reported that “The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report estimates it will cost developed nations an additional $100 billion each year to help poorer nations adapt to the devastating effects of ‘unequivocal’ global warming, including food shortages, infrastructure breakdown, and civil violence. But that figure was deleted from the report’s executive summary after industrial nations, including the United States, objected to the high price tag.”

The price tag reveals the IPCC’s real agenda, the transfer of funds from industrial nations to those less developed. It’s about the money and always has been. It’s not global warming the planet needs to survive, it is the costly lies about it.

[First published at Warning Signs]
Categories: On the Blog
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