Clearly, there are many different forms of taxpayer-funded corporate welfare going to the fossil fuel industry: direct subsidies, tax incentives, preferential treatment of various kinds, waiving or loosening health and safety regulations on the industry's operations, ensuring that there is as large a market for fossil fuels (e.g., in putting policy emphasis on making oil-powered transportation options as relatively attractive as possible) as possible, and many others. Now, we have a great example of yet another type of taxpayer-funded corporate welfare to an industry that most certainly doesn't need it.
Oil and gas companies looking to lease swaths of U.S. Forest Service land holding the promise of shale gas deposits and other fossil fuel resources have made the Bureau of Land Management’s Eastern States Office in Springfield ground zero for a new land rush.
For years Forest Service land in the East was considered irrelevant when it came to oil and gas leasing. But in the past year and a half, the federal government has leased or scheduled for auction more than 384,000 acres at the request of private bidders, more than 10 times as much land as it had leased in the previous two years.
The burst of activity has sparked a public debate over how to reconcile the different uses of national forests.
Make no mistake; allowing oil and gas companies to use these public lands --quite possibly harming them for everyone else who relies on them or who simply might want to enjoy them -- is a form of preferential treatment to the oil and natural gas companies over everybody else with an interest in these lands. That includes, by the way, anyone who drinks water that flows out of these national forests, such as "the headwaters of the Potomac and James rivers, which supply drinking water for Washington and Richmond, respectively."
So, if oil and gas c0mpanies are going to be allowed to endanger these precious forest and water resources, will they also be obliged to spend whatever amount of money is required to protect them? And will they be required to spend whatever amount of money is required to clean up those forested areas and water supplies if they are contaminated, even if that runs into huge sums of money? If not, why not?