Producers Knock Clinton Plan To Set Aside Public Lands

President Clinton's announcement Friday of a ban on new roads, logging and other activities on more than one-fourth of all federally owned lands will put quite a dent in the future exploration and production of natural gas in the United States, gas producers indicated.

The president's action, which had been anticipated by Republicans on Capitol Hill, would effectively place 58.5 million acres of federal lands off-limits to the logging, mining and producing industries. It's estimated this land has probable gas reserves of about 10 Tcf that could be developed, said Jerry Jordan, chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA).

Senate Energy Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK) charged that the Energy Information Administration is deliberately suppressing a report that shows the lands could hold up to 23 Tcf of gas reserves.

This "shouldn't be done. It's unwise and probably illegal. It's terribly unwise from the standpoint of our country's energy needs," Jordan told NGI. "Taking out over 50 million acres of non-park public lands will simply worsen our situation regarding natural gas."

He questioned the legal authority of the Clinton administration to take this action. "It will clearly be tested in the courts" by the logging industry and possibly gas producers, Jordan believes.

Skip Horvath, president of the Natural Gas Supply Association, also had several concerns with the ban. "We are concerned that such an order will impede maintenance of our [production] facilities" on federal lands.

But Clinton's executive order contends the ban will have "only very minimal impact on the...future supply of natural gas and other energy sources." It would permit existing oil, gas, coal and other leaseable mineral development to continue after current leases expire if they are immediately renewed or reissued.

Susan Parker

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