The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Nada Culver,
303-650-5818 ext. 117,
Alex Daue,
303-650-5818 ext. 108, 

Bush Administration Misses Yet Another Opportunity to Guide America to a Sustainable Energy Future

While Failing to Protect Treasured Public Lands


The Bush
administration's Bureau of Land Management and Department of Energy today
issued a plan for energy corridors throughout the West, squandering an
opportunity to move the United
States toward a renewable energy based
economy and opening iconic public wildlands to destructive development. The
plan comes despite pleas for a new direction in energy development from
Congress, state agencies, tribal governments and over 14,000 members of the

The agencies'
West-Wide Energy Corridors Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement
outlines a plan for more than 6,000 miles of corridors, encompassing nearly 3
million acres in 11 states, on public lands slated to accommodate high-capacity
electric transmission lines and oil and natural gas pipelines.

The final energy
corridor plan contains some important improvements for public lands protections-
imposing protective management conditions, moving certain objectionable
corridors and clarifying that pipelines cannot be sited without environmental
review-but crucial commitments to a clean energy future are not made. Iconic
places such as New Mexico's Sevilleta
National Wildlife Refuge, Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante
National Monument and Arches National
Park, and other protected areas throughout the
West stand to be directly impaired by massive oil and natural gas pipelines and
electric transmission lines that will slice through them or skirt their borders.

The agencies were
required to identify energy corridors on public lands under the 2005 Energy
Policy Act. Testimony at a Congressional oversight hearing and comments on the
draft plan by hundreds of attendees at public meetings, as well as thousands of
written comments, provided a blueprint for smart, environmentally sensitive energy
corridors that would support renewable energy. Instead, the agency designated a
corridor network which fails to provide adequate protections for public lands and
locks in transmission to polluting coal-fired power plants.

"New Mexico and other Western states are
working hard to bring clean, renewable energy online, but the proposed
corridors fail to access our best wind and solar resources," said Joanna
Prukop, secretary for the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources
Department. "We specifically identified needed corridors to support New Mexico's
renewable resources. They ignored us."

Most of the corridors
will average 3,500-feet in width (ranging up to five miles) and can accommodate
up to nine 500-kV electric transmission lines, 35 massive liquid petroleum
pipelines and 29 natural gas pipelines. The agencies are also moving forward
with plans to designate energy corridors in the other 38 states and Alaska.

The proposed plan
establishes one energy corridor that would cut through Utah's
Grand Staircase-Escalante National
Monument and is only a stone's throw from
the spectacular Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area. Another
massive corridor would come within a few yards of Arches
National Park's boundary, while driving
directly through the town of Moab.
Citizen-proposed wilderness, Forest Service roadless areas and National Wildlife
Refuges throughout the West are also impacted.

corridors, along with the Bush administration's last-minute oil and gas
leasing of land near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and the EPA
proposal for reduction in air quality standards at these same parks, will
irreparably harm the tremendous beauty of the red rock canyon country around
Moab that attracts millions to southeast Utah each year," said Phil Brueck, a member of the Executive Council of the
Coalition of National Park Service Retirees. "The government is making
these decisions in the waning moments of their power with little thought to the
wildlands they'll ruin, the national parks and monuments they'll
damage, the expansive views they'll degrade or the communities
they'll fracture. It also troubles me that because these decisions are
happening so fast and are mired in so much bureaucracy, that the American
public isn't even aware of the thieves stealing their crown jewels!"

The public is also not
being given their usual right to file protests on the final version of this PEIS,
even though as many as 165 local BLM and Forest Service land management plans
will be amended to incorporate these corridors.

"We appreciate the
improvements that have been made, but the plans can not be considered a success
because they inadequately address renewable energy, cut out the public's
right to protest, and will turn national monuments and wildlife refuges into
industrialized energy corridors," said Nada Culver
of the Wilderness Society. "These problems need to be fixed."

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Since 1935, The Wilderness Society has led the conservation movement in wilderness protection, writing and passing the landmark Wilderness Act and winning lasting protection for 107 million acres of Wilderness, including 56 million acres of spectacular lands in Alaska, eight million acres of fragile desert lands in California and millions more throughout the nation.