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Gallego Denounces Call to Ease Drilling Regulations in National Parks

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Big Bend National Park, Sotol Vista (Credit: Robert Hensley via Flickr CC BY-SA)

At a recent meeting of the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association in Fort Worth, US Congressman Pete Olson of Sugarland advocated for easing drilling regulations in national parks.

According to the energy industry insight service  Platts, Olson said the small percentage of federally-controlled lands in Texas has allowed the state's oil and gas industry to thrive.

Olson reportedly pointed to the boom in the Permian Basin as proof that energy development can take place alongside environmental stewardship.

From Platts:

Olson said the exploration and production industry can operate safely within national parks, while preserving the parks' scenic and ecological values.

"Working with the parks system, without destroying the parks' value, we can do both. We've proven that we can do that here in in Texas," he said.

He pointed to the flurry of Permian Basin oil and gas activity taking place close to Big Bend National Park.

"There's drilling out there, but there's been no impacts on Big Bend," he said.

US Congressman Pete Gallego of Alpine has since denounced that idea, saying in an Op-Ed that while "drilling will always have a place in securing America's energy independence," drilling in Big Bend "isn't responsible."

Gallego pointed to the park's <a href="https://irma.nps.gov/Stats/SSRSReports/Park%20Specific%20Reports/Annual%20Park%20Recreation%20Visitation%20Graph%20(1904%20-%20Last%20Calendar%20Year)?Park=BIBE" target="_blank" link-data="{&quot;link&quot;:{&quot;attributes&quot;:[],&quot;linkText&quot;:&quot;tourism draw&quot;,&quot;target&quot;:&quot;NEW&quot;,&quot;url&quot;:&quot;https://irma.nps.gov/Stats/SSRSReports/Park%20Specific%20Reports/Annual%20Park%20Recreation%20Visitation%20Graph%20(1904%20-%20Last%20Calendar%20Year)?Park=BIBE&quot;,&quot;_id&quot;:&quot;00000184-80f0-d6f8-a1cf-b6f4abde0002&quot;,&quot;_type&quot;:&quot;ff658216-e70f-39d0-b660-bdfe57a5599a&quot;},&quot;_id&quot;:&quot;00000184-80f0-d6f8-a1cf-b6f4abde0003&quot;,&quot;_type&quot;:&quot;809caec9-30e2-3666-8b71-b32ddbffc288&quot;}">tourism draw</a> and its associated profits for local communities as reason enough to oppose drilling.

"For those of us living in Far West Texas, Big Bend is not just another scenic view demanding protection and preservation," Gallego said, "Big Bend National Park is the engine that drives our local economy."

At the Fort Worth energy event, Olson also praised Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's move to allow private-sector involvement in that country's oil and gas industry.

In December,&nbsp;Peña Nieto&nbsp; <a href="http://www.abqjournal.com/376451/biz/privatizing-pemex-a-tricky-undertaking.html" target="_blank" link-data="{&quot;link&quot;:{&quot;attributes&quot;:[],&quot;linkText&quot;:&quot;ended a 75-year-long government monopoly&quot;,&quot;target&quot;:&quot;NEW&quot;,&quot;url&quot;:&quot;http://www.abqjournal.com/376451/biz/privatizing-pemex-a-tricky-undertaking.html&quot;,&quot;_id&quot;:&quot;00000184-80f0-d6f8-a1cf-b6f4abde0004&quot;,&quot;_type&quot;:&quot;ff658216-e70f-39d0-b660-bdfe57a5599a&quot;},&quot;_id&quot;:&quot;00000184-80f0-d6f8-a1cf-b6f4abde0005&quot;,&quot;_type&quot;:&quot;809caec9-30e2-3666-8b71-b32ddbffc288&quot;}">ended a 75-year-long government monopoly</a> on drilling, a move that's&nbsp; <a href="http://marfapublicradio.org/blog/mexico-drilling-exploratory-wells-across-from-presidio-texas-economic-benefit-expected/" target="_blank" link-data="{&quot;link&quot;:{&quot;attributes&quot;:[],&quot;linkText&quot;:&quot;expected to have positive economic benefits&quot;,&quot;target&quot;:&quot;NEW&quot;,&quot;url&quot;:&quot;http://marfapublicradio.org/blog/mexico-drilling-exploratory-wells-across-from-presidio-texas-economic-benefit-expected/&quot;,&quot;_id&quot;:&quot;00000184-80f0-d6f8-a1cf-b6f4abde0006&quot;,&quot;_type&quot;:&quot;ff658216-e70f-39d0-b660-bdfe57a5599a&quot;},&quot;_id&quot;:&quot;00000184-80f0-d6f8-a1cf-b6f4abde0007&quot;,&quot;_type&quot;:&quot;809caec9-30e2-3666-8b71-b32ddbffc288&quot;}">expected to have positive economic benefits</a> this side of the border.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.