Oklahoma Democrat Rep. Dan Boren is blasting Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s plans to overhaul the onshore leasing operations at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which he called “job killing,” and said he was offended by Salazar’s “kings of the world” rhetoric that was used to describe natural gas and oil producers.

Boren sent a letter to Salazar after the Interior secretary unveiled a sweeping reform of BLM’s onshore leasing program Wednesday (see Daily GPI, Jan. 7). In a conference call with reporters, Salazar said the new policies were evidence that producers’ influence on federal leasing decisions was not as strong as it had been in the previous administration.

“The difference is that under the prior administration, the oil and gas industry were essentially the kings of the world,” Salazar said. “Whatever they wanted to happen essentially happened. This department was essentially a handmaiden of the oil and gas industry…We have brought that to an end.”

Boren said the comments were “beyond the pale when thousands of Oklahomans and people from other energy-producing states are losing their jobs due to the recession. It’s the type of rhetoric that only serves to add insult to injury — like he’s just trying to pile-on their misery.”

The energy industry, said Boren, “is overwhelmingly made up of independent producers that drill 90% of the wells in the U.S. They are the mom and pop outfits that run a handful of wells, the young entrepreneur seeking to expand his operation, or the regional company that employs hundreds or even thousands of people in communities across the nation.

“And quite frankly, they consider this brand of rancor as a slap in the face and a direct attack on their pride in having helped build this country’s economy and powering its future,” Boren said. “When did this [Obama] administration completely divorce itself of the direct correlation between the ‘industry’ itself and the millions of American jobs that it provides? These are small businesses. These are sorely needed, well-paying American jobs.”

Some of Interior’s policy reforms would “circumvent law” approved under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which passed Congress with the support of both Salazar and then-Sen. Obama, Boren noted.

“Natural gas is without question the cleanest, most affordable American fuel we have,” Boren’s letter stated. “Thanks to new technologies, we can produce it in abundance if provided the access, but the benefits reach far beyond the tangible commodity. Its greatest contribution undoubtedly comes in the form of jobs — high-paying, stable, American jobs. Currently, millions of Americans are employed by the oil and gas industry, earning, on average, $45 an hour — over $93,000 a year — or double the national average estimate of jobs created by so-called ‘green investment.’

“Moreover, the revenue you are impeding from oil and gas leasing is the largest contributor to the national treasury after income tax. To stifle the growth of this industry in the midst of record-setting national deficit and unemployment levels is not only outrageous, but irresponsible.”

Boren asked Salazar to “reconsider these policy initiatives and reevaluate the harmful rhetoric you continue to use when discussing our nation’s energy industry and the millions of hard-working Americans it employs. Instead, respect the legacy of those who laid the foundation of our nation’s prosperity and work with the American energy industry on policies that will complement our national objectives, while preserving these critical jobs.”

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