Public Issues Committee

Title: Public Issues Committee
Author: Larry Anna, Chairman
Publication: The Outcrop, June 2004, p. 14

The National Research Council of the National Academies last year held a workshop on U.S. Natural Gas Demand, Supply, and Technology. The workshop proceedings were published by the National Academies Press and can be viewed on the web at http://books.nap.edu/books/0309089646/html/6.html#pagetop.  I’ll mention some of the more interesting parts of the publication.

  • Demand for natural gas is projected by the Energy Information Administration to grow from 22.4 Tcf, to 27.1 Tcf in 2010, to 34.9 Tcf in 2025, an average annual increase of 2 percent per year.
  • The long-term trend is the change from solid and liquid forms of energy toward natural gas, nuclear and renewable energy.
  • Can natural gas demand forecasts be realized to mitigate supply and price volatility?
  • There is a large amount of uncertainty associated with supply and demand of natural gas including resource estimates, economics of infrastructure, source of funding and manpower to support research and technology, economic and technological solutions to natural gas storage, and future price and supply.
  • Important issues related to increase long term gas supplies include increased access to currently off limit lands, more efficient and competitive fiscal and regulatory regimes, transportation infrastructure, and rapid technological improvements, especially the need to develop unconventional reservoirs and conventional deepwater and frontier resources.

As mentioned in the workshop summary, access to public lands for resource development is an important concern. The public lands issue has been approached from many fronts, one of which is illustrated in the publication “Laws Influencing Community-Based Conservation in Colorado and the American West: A Primer,” written by the Natural Resources Law Center, University of Colorado School of Law, 2000. See website: http://www.colorado.edu/Law/centers/nrlc/pubs.htm. The article’s theme is to describe how community-based conservation groups can utilize federal laws to promote involvement in the natural resource management and decision process on public lands. The article states that community-based groups should know and understand two important federal laws pertinent to public lands decision making. One is the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which specifies the terms under which federal agencies can establish, utilize, and participate in multi-stakeholder groups. The other is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which specifies that the decision-making process consider all major land use and environmental management decisions made by the federal government. The environmental impact statement (EIS) is usually the initial entry point for concerned citizens, as well as stakeholders, into the public decision-making process. Under NEPA, resource management plans such as the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), used by BLM, requires and encourages public participation.

The article notes that organizing community groups and bringing them to the public table is not like organizing your local homeowners group. FACA regulations often burden the group with specific requirements, some of which are enforced and some not. It appears that only the most organized groups get through the system to have a voice toward influencing an outcome.

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