GOP budget opens more land to drilling, approves Keystone XL

Michael Bastasch | Contributor

The House Republicans’ fiscal 2014 budget put forth by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan would open up more lands to oil and gas development, and approves the Keystone XL pipeline.

“America has the world’s largest natural-gas, oil and coal reserves — enough natural gas to meet the country’s needs for 90 years,”  Ryan wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. “Yet the administration is buying up land to prevent further development.”

“Our budget opens these lands to development, so families will have affordable energy,” he continued. “It approves the Keystone XL pipeline, which will create 20,000 direct jobs—and 118,000 indirect jobs. Our budget puts the country on the path to North American energy independence.”

The push for more energy development and approval of the Keystone pipeline follows many efforts by Republicans to ramp up U.S. energy production and ride the oil and natural gas boom.

Last week, House Republicans released a plan to fast-track Keystone XL pipeline and take the final decision out of the president’s hands.

“It’s been over four years and thousands of pages of environmental reviews. The experts have weighed in. Now is the time to build the Keystone Pipeline,” said Nebraska Republican Rep. Lee Terry, the plan’s author.

Environmentalists claim that the Keystone pipeline could harm water supplies and contribute to climate change.

“This pipeline is not in our national interest — the evidence shows it would unlock vast amounts of additional carbon that we cannot afford to burn, extend our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels, endanger health and safety, and put critical water resources at risk,” reads a letter from environmental groups to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Last month, the Sierra Club led thousands of protesters in front of the White House to urge Obama to reject the pipeline, which will bring tar sands oil from Canada to refineries in the Gulf Coast region.

President Barack Obama has also come under heavy criticism for limiting access to federal lands for oil and gas drilling, despite promises to promote more energy development.

The Congressional Research Service reported that oil production on federal lands fell again 2012, despite an increase in overall U.S. oil production due to the fracking boom occurring on private and state lands.

“Where the states have been in charge, we have seen energy development boom in a safe and responsible way, but under federal control we have seen a sharp decline in production,” said Kentucky Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield. “A web of red tape and a backlog of delayed permits are blocking important energy production opportunities on federal lands.”

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