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Tuesday, May 21 2013 11:00 PM

DAVID VALADAO: Let the valley flourish -- BLM decision hurts region's jobs

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    David Valadao

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The Central Valley has been home to agriculture and energy development for generations. This way of life is less about what we do, and more about who we are. Over time, the state and federal governments have imposed policies and regulations that discourage growth in the very industries we rely on. This has led to high unemployment and an unhealthy dependence on public assistance.

On May 4, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management indefinitely canceled all oil and natural gas lease sales in California through Sept. 30, including 1,278 acres of prime oil and natural gas land that spans Kern and Fresno counties. These Central Valley parcels, originally set for auction on May 22, are a part of the Monterey Shale Formation and located in an area currently producing oil and natural gas. The Monterey Shale Formation contains two-thirds of the entire United States' shale oil reserves, approximately 15.4 billion barrels. A USC study recently forecast that the Monterey Shale could generate half a million jobs and $4.5 billion in oil-related tax revenue by 2015. These are good, local jobs in a part of the state that has faced chronic unemployment for decades.

Citing the recent automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, BLM has decided to suspend all future lease sales in the state of California through fiscal year 2013 with little intention to reinstate these lease sales. The decision was made despite the fact that federal oil and gas leases provide significant revenue for the federal government.

In 2012, the federal government collected more than $233 million in revenue from fees levied on onshore oil and gas lease sales. These fees, collected from companies who produce oil and gas on government land, represent one of the largest non-tax sources of revenue for the government. The BLM's decision to cancel lease sales in California is depriving our state and federal government of funds that oil and gas producers would willingly pay into public coffers -- funds that could be used to support local schools, repair our aging infrastructure, or pay down our national debt. Meanwhile, President Obama's administration continues to tout a fiscal year 2014 budget that includes more than $1 trillion in new taxes and fees while borrowing $744 billion from China.

The Bureau of Land Management's decision to cancel oil and gas leasing in California is another example of the administration using sequestration to further its own environmental policy agenda at the expense of hardworking American families. In the Central Valley, where the unemployment rate continues to hover near 32 percent in many areas, BLM's efforts to erect further barriers to energy development is depriving my constituents in California's 21st Congressional District of quality jobs in the energy sector while simultaneously increasing energy prices for hardworking families across the country.

Under the BLM's recent decision, California stands alone while similar sales in other states are continuing as planned. It is inexcusable that the BLM is unilaterally halting leasing auctions in areas that have been used for oil and gas development for over a century -- auctions that generate revenue for the federal government, reduce our nation's dependency on foreign oil, and lead to direct economic benefits and job creation. We must be proactive in driving real economic growth in California, especially in the Central Valley.

The Central Valley has faced chronic unemployment for too long. We are proud of our energy and agriculture heritage. We are stewards of the land. It is time for bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., to get out of the way and let our valley flourish.

Rep. David Valadao, a Hanford Republican, represents the 21st Congressional District. Community Voices is an expanded commentary of 650 to 700 words. The Californian reserves the right to edit all submissions for length and clarity.

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