Department of the Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact: John Wright
For Immediate Release: Aug. 3, 2005
(202) 208-6416
Assistant Secretary Watson Highlights Efforts
to Meet America's Demand for Natural Gas
Rocky Mountain Basins holds largest onshore
domestic resource of natural gas in the country

DENVER-In a speech today before the 17th Annual Rocky Mountain Natural Gas Strategy Conference and Investment Forum in Denver, Colo., Rebecca Watson, assistant secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management, said Americans can have both energy production and environmental protection. Watson cited the recently passed Energy Bill and the Bush Administration's efforts to develop natural gas in an environmentally safe manner to help meet the country's demand for domestic energy.

"One of the top priorities of the Bush Administration is to ensure America's future energy security," Watson said. "The Energy Bill will help achieve some important goals of the President's National Energy Policy. The Bill represents the strong bipartisan commitment our government has made for supporting energy development."

In highlighting efforts to increase the development of clean-burning natural gas, Watson told conference attendees that public lands managed by the Interior Department play a significant role in the development of energy resources. She noted that more than half of the acreage in the Rocky Mountain basins is under federal management and that these basins contain significant resources.

Watson said that we all have a shared interest in working together to develop America's domestic energy sources by implementing reasonable policies for access, with economic efficiency and with full environmental protection.

"Americans value a spectacular natural environment, just as they value a thriving economy," Watson said. "Americans use 22 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year; 55 million American households and 40 percent of American industry depend on natural gas. Because of its clean-burning air-quality benefits, 90 percent of our new energy plants will be powered by natural gas."

"The Rocky Mountain basins hold the largest onshore resource of natural gas in the country and the second largest resource of natural gas after the Outer Continental Shelf," she said. "These basins contain an estimated 139 trillion cubic feet, enough to heat the 55 million homes that use natural gas for almost 30 years."

"The President's National Energy Policy places a high value on our environment and the quality of life it supports. Environmentally sound energy production allows Americans to live well and wisely," Watson said. "The policy includes not only enhancing supplies of renewable and nonrenewable energy but also placing an important focus on conservation."

Watson noted that the Bureau of Land Management took important action to improve its policy on surface-owner agreements to advance development of split-estate, federal natural gas. "When farmers and ranchers, who own surface rights, have concerns about energy development on their lands, split-estate issues must be addressed," Watson said. "If an equitable agreement can't be reached, industry will have to post an additional bond to compensate surface owners for potential losses on their land."

Watson said that contrary to what you read in the newspapers, leasing on public lands is a market-based program. The Federal Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act (1987) requires lease sales to be held quarterly if interest is expressed and the land-management plan provides for leasing in an environmentally safe manner.

"As I've said many times before, it is not energy developers who are driving demand for natural gas in this country, it is American consumers," Watson said. "Americans need and use vast quantities of energy. And in many instances, it is these same consumers who are objecting to development on public lands."

"Environmental protection is an important part of energy production. We conduct extensive reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act and other laws in every case before we recommend development," Watson said. "We do exhaustive land-use planning that involves input from all stakeholders. When environmental conditions warrant protection, we recommend no development or require special mitigation."

Watson indicated that the Interior Department is implementing an aggressive program to encourage industry to develop these resources. "We are depending on you, the energy industry, to help us meet the demand for domestic energy," she said. "Only one in eight Americans knows the primary fuels for electricity generation. Clearly we need to better educate Americans on the work you do to make energy available for their use."

Lands managed by the Interior Department produce about 30 percent of the nation's energy supply. Approximately one-third of the country's natural gas, coal and oil and one-half of geothermal, 17 percent of hydropower, and 10 percent of wind power are produced in areas managed by Interior. Interior worked with the Department of Energy to produce the first government-wide report that described actions to increase renewable energy production and use on federal lands. For more information on the Interior Department's energy initiatives on public lands, visit



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