Environmentalists call on appointee to end waste
By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN Associated Press Writer
Western environmentalists are holding the Obama administration to its pledge to make the federal government more efficient, asking that it investigate several natural resource programs they describe as wasteful and environmentally harmful.
WildEarth Guardians sent a letter Tuesday to Nancy Killefer, President Barack Obama's new chief performance officer. She was hired earlier this month to make federal programs more efficient and to help eliminate those that don't work.
John Horning, WildEarth Guardians executive director, said the administration's interest in stamping out waste can have a positive impact on the environment aside from chipping away at the federal deficit.
"It's a new day and our economy is falling apart," Horning said. "With a new day, we have renewed optimism that some of these totally antiquated federal programs that waste taxpayer money and cause environmental harm will finally be reformed or all together eliminated."
In the letter, Horning targets issues that have long raised the ire of environmentalists, including grazing on public land, mining, federal timber sales and oil and gas operations regulated by the Bureau of Land Management.
WildEarth Guardians claims that despite BLM's best management practices, natural gas producers vent 148 billion cubic feet of methane each year. At $5 per thousand cubic feet, this amounts to more than $740 million of lost income.
"Not only does this represent a loss in royalty revenue for the United States, the escaped methane is a significant source of global warming pollution," the letter states.
BLM and industry officials maintain that they have been working together to limit the venting of gases by installing emissions equipment at well sites and limiting travel across oil and natural gas fields by using remote monitoring technology.
WildEarth Guardians also highlights northeast Wyoming's Powder River Basin in its letter. The group claims that decisions by federal land managers have allowed coal companies to draw their own lease boundaries, resulting in less competition and below market lease rates.
The group also claims revenue is being lost on public lands grazing. Ranchers were charged the federal minimum of $1.35 per cow per month to graze public land last year, while grazing fees on equivalent private land averaged $15.90 in 2007, according to the letter.
Horning said he thinks "no stone should go unturned" in the effort to improve government.
"I think every one of these problematic natural resource policies, if modernized or reformed or eliminated, is going to lead to a leaner, more efficient government so we can better use taxpayer dollars," he said.