Barrasso Grills Director Stone-Manning on the BLM’s Assault on Wyoming

June 13, 2024

This hearing marks the first time in three years that Tracy Stone-Manning has appeared before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In today’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, ranking member John Barrasso (R-WY) blasted the agency’s updates to the Rock Springs Field Office and the Buffalo Field Office Resource Management Plans, changes to the Greater Sage-Grouse Rangewide Planning process, and efforts to drive oil and gas production off federal lands.  

Excerpts of these exchanges are below. To watch the questioning in full, click here.

To start, Barrasso highlighted the devastating impact the BLM’s Rock Springs Resource Management Plan would have on Wyoming.

Click here to watch Barrasso’s exchange on the Rock Springs Resource Management Plan.

BARRASSO: “Ms. Stone-Manning, the Bureau’s Rock Springs Resource Management Plan will devastate the people of southwest Wyoming. It would lock up millions of acres of land. Local communities and the entire state relies on those lands. The Governor, the state legislature, county commissioners, local communities all strongly oppose this plan. So why are you ignoring Wyoming’s opposition to the plan across the board?

STONE-MANNING: “Senator, thanks for the question. As you know the Rock Springs plan is—there’s a draft out, there was a public comment period, there was a lot of hyperbole about facts that were not true about the plan. So we’ve done a lot of education work with your constituents about what’s in the plan. More importantly, we extended the public comment period and worked with the governor, he stood up a task force, and those folks got to walk in the shoes of our BLM field staff in Rock Springs to give us recommendations for the final. We’re digging in, looking at those recommendations, and I am certain that Wyomingites will see their voices reflected in the final.”

BARRASSO: “Well I just hope that BLM does not dig in but actually reverses course on this issue.”

Barrasso highlighted the dangerous implications of prohibiting coal leases in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin as proposed for the Buffalo Resource Management Plan.

Click here to watch Barrasso’s exchange on the Buffalo Resource Management Plan.

BARRASSO: “Last month, the Bureau took steps to prohibit coal leasing in the Powder River Basin. The Bureau claims that coal production in the region won’t be impacted until the year 2038, so fourteen years from now. The Bureau claims that existing leases are sufficient to meet expected demand for coal. My question then is, why is the Bureau taking this action, now, if you say it’s not going to have any impact for at least fourteen years?

STONE-MANNING: “Senator thanks for the question. As you know the president has asked us to turn and transition to a clean energy economy. The lands in the Powder River Basin are leased through 2041. And so we, you see the draft, or the final before you. The record of decision is still in formulation.

BARRASSO: “Well I’ll point out that a front page story in the New York Times not too long ago pointed out that this president’s pipe dream is not actually something that can be possibly done in our country and our needs for energy as the committee hearings have shown again, and again, and again. I think this plan’s completely reckless. Last year, the Powder River Basin supplied 45 percent of all the coal mined in the United States, and if this carbon-free grid doesn’t materialize, and I don’t believe it will, what do you do? Suggest that we start importing coal from China and other places?” 

STONE-MANNING: “Senator, I have great faith in the ingenuity of the American people. We are hard at work every day. We have permitted 7.9 gigawatts in just three and a half years. I believe we can reach the transition the president has asked us to reach.”

BARRASSO: “Well I agree on the ingenuity of the American people. It’s really hard when your agency continues to block efforts to produce the critical minerals that we need and so much of the product that we need for the American economy.”

Barrasso questioned the BLM’s justification for its new oil and gas leasing and bonding rule.  

Click here to watch Barrasso’s exchange on the BLM’s bonding rule.

BARRASSO: “So in April, your Bureau issued a rule that will dramatically raise bonding requirements on oil and gas producers. This is money that producers must pay upfront in order to operate on federal lands. According to the data from your own Department, there were only 37 abandoned wells on lands managed by the Bureau. That’s less than one-tenth of one percent of all the wells that the Bureau manages. So how do you justify your decision to increase bonding requirements by as much as twenty-five fold?

STONE-MANNING: “Senator, both the Government Accountability Office and the Inspector General have written reports that suggest, I think rightly so, that our bonding rates, which are over sixty years old, are not high enough. We have thousands of idled wells on our public lands, and idled wells are the last stop before they become orphaned. Not all of them become orphaned, but the GAO found that thousands of them will.”

BARRASSO: “I don’t buy it – this rule, to me, is completely arbitrary and punitive and you’re trying to drive oil and gas producers off federal land and I think it’s disgraceful.”

Lastly, Barrasso questioned BLM’s refusal to issue oil and gas leases and permits in Wyoming.

Click here to watch Barrasso’s exchange on the BLM’s oil and gas leases and permits.

BARRASSO: “Ms. Stone-Manning, the Bureau has yet to issue leases to the winning bidders of the December 2020 oil and gas leases. So it’s now 2024, 2020 to 2024. When do you plan to issue the leases?

STONE-MANNING: “Senator, thank you for that question. We are still working our way through multiple court decisions, when we issue them we want them to be durable and stick.”

BARRASSO: “Because, you know the law requires you issue the leases within 60 days, and it’s now been over three and half years so when do you plan – give me a date – when you plan to issue these leases that by law should have been leased?”

STONE-MANNING: “Senator, I don’t have a date for you at this time.”

BARRASSO: “Three and half years, long time, again we need a date.”

BARRASSO: “Next, in June of 2022, the Bureau settled a lawsuit related to oil and gas leases that it had issued between 2015 and 2020 in Wyoming. In that settlement, the Bureau agreed to update the environmental analysis of the leases. So the Bureau’s Wyoming Office, the state office, in Wyoming, of the Bureau of Land Management, says they finished updating exactly what you wanted last summer. Finished what you asked for last summer. So why has your Bureau not then released this updated analysis?

STONE-MANNING: “Senator, again, as I was mentioning, we are reconciling different court decisions and opinions throughout the West, and we want to make sure that we are consistent.”

BARRASSO: “It seems like a lot of foot-dragging. The state office can’t issue the permits to drill on these leases, refuses to, until the Bureau releases the updated analysis which is now done, which was done a year ago. So again, when will the Bureau release that analysis?”

STONE-MANNING: “I’m sorry, which analysis?”

BARRASSO: “The one that was done a year ago by the Bureau, Wyoming’s Bureau of Land Management based on a 2022 settlement.”

STONE-MANNING: “Yeah, again Senator, I don’t have a date for you.”

BARRASSO: “Well we need a date, and you can see how every member of this side says this is a deliberate sabotage of American energy by an administration with this approach, which is a pipe dream about their view of when we can get to a carbon-free America. And, as our hearing showed last week, Mr. Chairman, China’s beaten us to this because they’re putting all the energy into AI and that puts us at a competitive world disadvantage.”