Department of the Interior

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Office of the Secretary
John Wright , 202-208-6416
For Immediate Release: June 22, 2004  
Secretary Norton Touts Sensible Energy Development with Best Management Practices

Safeguarding the environment the way the American people expect


SANTA FE, N.M.- Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton today told Western governors that proven methods to minimize the impact of energy development on the land should include Best Management Practices (BMPs)-a significant tool in meeting the challenge of increasing domestic energy production while safeguarding public land and its wildlife.

"The President's National Energy Policy includes significant support for developing alternative energy," Norton said at the annual meeting of the Western Governors' Association. "We must also increase domestic production of traditional energy sources, especially natural gas. In doing this we can develop energy resources while safeguarding the environment the way the American people expect."

Norton noted last year's warning from Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan that the growing gap between the supply and demand for natural gas is "a very serious problem" for the American economy.

" America has plentiful resources of natural gas, more than half of which exist on lands and under waters managed by the Interior Department," said Norton. "What we need are concrete ways to minimize the impacts of energy development on the land. That's what Best Management Practices do, and that's why the Department's resource managers are working hard to see that these practices are adopted early and often in oil and gas projects."

Norton also praised the WGA for its leadership role in developing a Best Management Practices handbook showcasing responsible aspects of energy development. "I have been emphasizing the adoption of Best Management Practices," said Norton, "an area where the Western Governors Association has taken a leadership role, and I commend you."

As Norton addressed Western governors on energy issues, Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Rebecca Watson, attending the National Fluid Minerals Conference in Cheyenne , Wyo. , announced that the Bureau of Land Management has issued guidance to its Field Offices that BMPs will be considered when evaluating applications to drill and right-of-way approvals.

"The goals of BLM new policy are first, to reduce the environmental impacts of oil and gas development and second, to reduce the number of appeals, protests and lawsuits filed against permit applications, by addressing concerns of surface owners and the public as early as possible in the process," Norton said. "The policy recognizes that energy exploration and production are a temporary use of public lands, while conservation of sensitive species such as the sage grouse and maintenance of healthy landscapes are critical for our future."

Norton presented a 4C's Award to the association in recognition of their leadership in working to develop the BMP handbook. "The 4C's Award derives from my philosophy of Communication, Consultation and Cooperation, all in the service of Conservation," she said. "The Western Governors Association's Best Management Practices Handbook is a perfect example of how much we can achieve when we work together to meet goals we all share."

Americans use 22 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas every year. About half of all American homes - around 56 million - are heated with natural gas. Forty percent of American industry currently depends on natural gas, and about 90 percent of new power plants to come online in the next decade will be fueled by natural gas.

The U.S. Geological Survey reports that the nation's natural gas reserves amount to a 50-year supply, at current consumption rates. Coalbed natural gas accounts for approximately 9.6 percent of total U.S. reserves. The Rocky Mountain States of New Mexico , Utah , Colorado , Wyoming and Montana hold an estimated 3.9 billion barrels of oil and 138.5 Tcf of natural gas.

Lands managed by the Interior Department currently account for about 30 percent of America's domestic energy production, including 35 percent of natural gas and oil production. In the last four years Department agencies have also issued 156 geothermal leases and 37 wind-energy rights-of-way. Interior-managed lands account for nearly half of the nation's geothermal production and 20 percent of wind power.


Note to Editors: The handbook is available online at: . Guidance on BMPs can also be found on the BLM's website: .