Equal Ground Coalition Urges Western Energy Alliance to Match “Common Ground” Rhetoric

Aug 23, 2013


Open Letter Challenges Oil Industry to Support Two Common Sense Principles

Today the Equal Ground Coalition sent a letter to Western Energy Alliance (WEA) President Tim Wigley urging WEA to support policies that show a commitment to finding common ground on Western land and energy issues. The letter was prompted by the WEA’s recent launch of a ‘Common Ground’ advertising campaign, including radio ads in Western markets, which discusses industry efforts to balance environmental concerns on Western lands.

“The Western Energy Alliance’s recent ‘Common Ground’ ads reflect a major change to the organization’s rhetoric,” said Greg Zimmerman, Policy Director of the Center for Western Priorities. “We welcome this change in tone and hope it’s matched by an honest effort by WEA to address Western communities’ concerns about drilling in and around national parks, water supplies, and communities.”

The coalition’s letter, available here, notes that protected public lands are a significant contributor to America’s $646 billion recreation economy and highlights public opinion research that confirms the high priority that Westerners place on recreation and conservation on their public lands. It also notes that Western lands policy has lacked balance in recent years, with much more public land leased to oil companies than protected for monuments and wilderness, and much more encroachment by drilling into key natural areas and Western communities. The Equal Ground coalition’s objective is to restore balance and get conservation and recreation efforts moving again, while allowing for responsible energy development.

“We hope WEA puts its on-air rhetoric on the table as well. If industry’s new ad campaign is matched with deeds, there’s an opportunity to achieve some real ‘common ground’ by working to restore balance to the management of our public lands,” said Matt Lee-Ashley, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “A few simple fixes by Washington and the oil and gas industry can help put the public’s demand for more open spaces and recreation opportunities back on equal ground with drilling.”

The letter asks WEA if it will support two common sense principles that would show a commitment by industry to address public concerns and drill responsibly:

  • Avoid drilling in and around national parks; near schools, houses, and local communities; and in areas that supply drinking water to local communities; and
  • Prioritize drilling in areas of public lands that contain high resource potential and low conflict, as identified in ‘master leasing plans’ that the BLM is developing in coordination with industry and local communities.

Further, the letter invites WEA to review the Equal Ground coalition’s Blueprint for Balance and identify policy ideas for potential collaboration. The policies proposed in the Blueprint are consistent with responsible drilling and enhanced conservation efforts on public lands. For a short video summarizing the Blueprint for Balance, click here.