Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land)
Yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 1459, a bill that severely limits the federal government's ability to establish new national parks.
Though the bill is unlikely to pass the Senate or be signed into law by President Obama, it's indicative of House Republicans' attitude toward national parks. House GOP are increasingly disregarding conservation in favor of profit, hoping to drill for oil on more public land.
In 2012, the Center for American Progress found that 12 national parks had oil and gas operations occurring, and up to 30 more could see drilling in the future.
One Texas Congressman, Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land), thinks that more drilling can't come soon enough. At an event in Fort Worth on Tuesday, Olson expressed his support for increasing drilling on federal land.
Olson said he wants less regulation of national parks so that more oil and gas operations can take place there.
Read Pete Olson's remarks after the jump. Said Olson at the oil and gas conference, “”Guys on the West Coast … west of the Mississippi, they know they've got oil and gas under the land that they can't touch because it's on a national park or some sort of federal land.”
He then argued that “the exploration and production industry can operate safely within national parks, while preserving the parks' scenic and ecological values.”
Olson also claimed that one reason Texas' oil and gas industry was so successful was because Texas has less federally protected land than some other states. He pointed to drilling in the Permian Basin near Big Bend as an example of successful drilling near a national park.
“Working with the parks system, without destroying the parks' value, we can do both. We've proven that we can do that here in in Texas,” claimed Olson.
Opening national parks up to drilling would put them at risk to irreparable damage. As Texans have seen this week with the Galveston Oil Spill, accidents do happen. And when they do, they could cause long-lasting damage to plants, animals, and the natural beauty of our national parks.
Fortunately, Olson's proposal to expand drilling is not something the general public supports–polling suggests that Americans actually want more protections for national parks. But his remarks expose a dangerous line of thinking that is becoming increasingly prevalent among Republicans, the prioritization of profit over the preservation of our planet.