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International Drilling Trade Group Calls Romney’s plan to turn over federal lands to states ‘Populist raw meat’

Mitt Romney’s energy plan is devoted almost exclusively to increasing consumption of fossil fuels — completely ignoring dire warnings from scientists and energy experts that the “door is closing” on our ability to avoid irreversible, catastrophic climate change.

Along with the environmental limitations of continuing our reliance on carbon-based resources, the Romney energy plan falsely claims the U.S. can become energy independent and lower prices simply through increased production of fossil fuels, mostly oil — an impossible goal in a global market.

Calling such goals a “pipe dream,” Michael Levi, a leading energy expert with the Council on Foreign Relations said, “the Romney plan overpromises on results while ignoring many of the biggest energy problems the United States faces.”

And now, one of Romney’s big selling points from his energy plan — turning over federal lands to the states for fossil fuel production — is being challenged by an international trade group of drillers as unfeasible and possibly bad for business.

Here’s what E&E News’ Greenwire reported on the industry group’s reaction:

The International Association of Drilling Contractors, which includes rig owners and oil field service companies, said Romney’s plan is politically improbable and would be opposed by many operators concerned about the potential for a hodgepodge of state regulations.

“You might find yourself — the operators — tearing their hair out,” said Brian Petty, the group’s executive vice president of government affairs, based in Washington, D.C. “I think it’s a little bit of populist raw meat thrown out.”

Petty said some operators could find themselves unable to drill in California, for example, even though they are able to operate in Montana. “If you have a one-size-fits-all, you have only one licensing agency,” he said.

By turning over public lands to states more likely to push fossil fuel production, Romney hopes to accelerate oil and gas drilling. As the New York Times explained:

“the purposes [of federal public lands], under established law, are various: recreation, preservation, resource development. States, as a rule, tend to be interested mainly in resource development. In the energy future envisioned by Mr. Romney, that is precisely what would prevail.”

In addition, all state regulations would supersede federal laws for permitting and environmental regulation under Romney’s plan.

This sounds like a paradise for oil and gas drillers. But the International Association of Drilling Contractors believes the policy could cause more headaches than it’s worth: “The proposal to transfer control of management of onshore federal lands resource extraction to the States will never fly. Even many producers would balk at that, left to a patchwork of State regulations instead of a common federal template,” wrote IADC’s Petty in Drilling Contractor magazine.

Even Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a fierce Tea Partier, vetoed a bill that allow her state to take over federal lands because she was “concerned about the lack of certainty this legislation could create for individuals holding existing leases on federal lands.”

Romney’s position on encouraging resource extraction in national parks is still unclear. His plan says that “lands specifically designated off-limits” would not be handed over to the states. However, this could mean spaces currently protected, or it could mean spaces designated specifically by a Romney-Ryan Administration. More detail is needed from the campaign on this issue.

But Romney has made one thing perfectly clear: his plan would open up as much of America up to oil and gas drilling as possible — environmental consequences be damned.

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