20
Jul
2004

To Drill or Not to Drill

Nightline Daily E-Mail

July 19, 2004

TONIGHT'S FOCUS: A battle is brewing in the West. At stake is land that is stunningly beautiful and ecologically sensitive, land that has been compared to the Serengeti for its spectacular array of wildlife, but also to Saudi Arabia because of the enormous amount of natural gas beneath it. Stepped up leasing of land for oil and gas development by the Bush Administration has brought a bonanza of profits to Rocky Mountain states like Wyoming. But the energy boom has also brought together some unusual alliances who vehemently oppose development.

The Bush Administration has expedited permits for leasing land to oil and gas developers along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains -- in Wyoming, Montana, eastern Utah, western Colorado and northern New Mexico. This area -- most of which is owned by the federal government -- is rich in natural gas, and new technology has made harvesting that gas possible. Growing demand for a clean, domesticallly produced energy source has pushed up prices, setting off a drilling bonanza.

That's been good for some, but as Nightline discovered, it's also intensely angered ranchers, sportsmen and environmentalists who worry about the effects on the wildlife and their way of life. Nightline looks at the intensive natural gas development surrounding the tiny town of Pinedale, Wyoming, nestled in the Upper Green
River Valley. The Valley is also a major migration corridor for mule deer and pronghorn antelope, who pass through on their long migration from the Grand Tetons to the high desert. The region is famous for its hunting and fishing bounty, and is home to a growing
recreational and tourist industry as well as traditional livestock ranching.

The Bureau of Land Management, part of the Department of Interior, is responsible for mediating the multiple uses of this public land. Critics charge that under the Bush Administration, energy development, in the form of thousands of new wells, has been expedited at the expense of environmental considerations. Drilling brings commerce, but with it networks of roads and truck traffic to serve the gasfields. Ranchers, hunters and fishermen have joined with environmentalists to try to slow down the pace of drilling.

Judy Muller will examine the controversy tonight and Chris Bury will talk with Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton.

We hope you'll join us.

Jay LaMonica and the Nightline Staff
Nightline Offices
ABC News Washington Bureau


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