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An Open Letter to Interior Secretary Salazar

April 30, 2009
Op-Ed and Speech

Dear Secretary Salazar:

Welcome to the great state of Utah.  I sincerely hope you enjoy your visit and I am confident you will be impressed with the incredible beauty of the state as well as Utah's most important resource, its people. 

When I heard of your plans to visit, my immediate hope was that the intent of your trip was to provide Utahns with explanations, possibly even an apology, as to why in your first months in office you have taken specific steps targeted at Utah.  Such actions appear more likely from a Washington bureaucrat than a Westerner with a reputation of moderation.

I have since learned that your reason for visiting is not to explain why you unilaterally cut off access to over 130,000 acres of land abundant in natural resources identified after seven years of public comment and deliberation.  Had the 77 leases you cancelled been allowed to go forward and development occurred, the federal government would have accrued more than $1 billion in royalty payments.  Had you let things proceed as planned, taxes from income earned by workers would have increased and the state of Utah would have benefited with nearly $1 billion in royalty payments. 

I also learned you are not visiting Utah to explain your decision to put a halt to the development of the state's oil shale resources.  America's western oil shale deposit is the largest unexploited hydrocarbon resource on earth.  It is estimated that more than two trillion barrels of oil are held in oil shale deposits scattered across the nation.  Oil shale in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming alone could yield 800 billion barrels of oil for the global market.  That is more than the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia and enough to supply 100 percent of America's current domestic petroleum needs for more than 100 years.

Instead, I learned you are visiting my home state in order to remind us of the "contributions" this administration has provided Utah in recent months, including saddling our children and grandchildren with massive new debts along with huge growth in the federal government.  Well, thanks for the reminder.

Like many Western states, Utah has suffered from the swift blows flying out of Washington, but now our state will also have to recover from canceled energy development that would have created good-paying Utah jobs, limited imported oil, and provided funding for schools and roads in our communities.  As a school teacher, I know firsthand the long-term benefits this funding would have provided for Utah's schools.  Who benefits from the loss of this energy development?  Not Utah's kids, but the east coast special interest groups who will likely never personally experience the hardship many Westerners face from excessive government regulations. 

Last year alone, oil cost the United States over 700 billion dollars, 60 percent of which was imported from nations hostile to the U.S.  Your decisions to delay energy development and production here in Utah, on the abundant Western oil shale lands in other states, and in the Outer Continental Shelf will play a significant role in preventing our country from achieving energy independence.  Instead, these actions practically guarantee us a last place finish in the race for alternative energy development and hinder the job creation and economic growth our country so desperately needs at this time.

While energy exploration remains trapped in the circuitous vortex of environmental special interests, it is increasingly difficult to see hard-working families stretching their dollars to pay energy bills when there is abundant, affordable energy within the borders of our state- yet the federal government denies us access.  We should be empowering Americans with every opportunity to save their hard earned dollars and develop good-paying jobs.  Instead, we seem intent on robbing them of every possible opportunity to get ahead.  That's how people in Washington do things.  That's not how Westerners do things.

In closing, I also have a suggestion for you to ponder while here.  How about recognizing the merits in letting Utahns decide how, if, and when we want to develop the natural resources in this state.  The same approach would work in your home state of Colorado as well.  We don't want to tell them what to do, and we certainly don't need Washington telling us what to do. 


Rob Bishop
Member of Congress (UT-01)