Governor Herbert testified yesterday alongside ID Gov Butch Otter, MT Rep/Senate candidate Denny Rehberg, attacking Secretary Salazar's December order that the US Dept. of Interior would (GASP!) begin enforcing existing policy, ignored under the "No More Wilderness" Bush-era agreement between the department and some western states. Herbert:
"This order hinders rural economic development and hurts key funding sources for Utah's school children," Herbert said, noting that royalties from mineral development are a primary founding sources for Utah schools.Putting aside the obvious irony of a Utah Republican feigning concern for schoolchildren, I decided to look into how this new policy focus would negatively impact mineral development in Utah. What I found:
It wouldn't. At all. (But: LAND GRAB!!! Arglebargle!!!)
According to BLM data for western states, there is an average of 1 acre of wilderness land for every 42 leased for oil and gas drilling. And of the land currently leased (which would not be effected by the new order) for oil and gas drilling, just over 1/3 is actually being used by the industry. Returning to enforcing existing policy would only effect new land designations.
Herbert took his typical "funky math" dog and pony show on the road to oppose what would essentially be a more open public land policy with greater opportunity for public input than the policy of the past several years and a policy that wouldn't hurt Utah's School children nearly as much as the legislation from the legislative session waiting on his desk to sign.
Don't believe the hype.