Bush administration makes big push for oil and gas drilling in West

With unprecedented speed, the Bush administration has opened vast swaths of environmentally sensitive land in the West to oil and gas drilling — this by-now-familiar story is told comprehensively in articles in The Washington Post and The Seattle Times. The situation is summed up by Dave Alberswerth, former Clinton adviser and now a lobbyist for The Wilderness Society: “They haven’t changed any statutes. They haven’t changed any regulations. But they’ve changed a whole lot of practices and policies without any real public scrutiny.” Bureau of Land Management employees are now rewarded for speeding through approval of leases for energy companies, which in many cases are writing land-use plans themselves. Opposition is spreading from environmentalists to traditionally conservative ranchers, hunters, and anglers. Bush administration officials deny that they’re damaging wild areas, but they happily concede that the balance for “multiple-use” areas has been moved toward resource extraction.