May 14, 2019

Cortez Masto Presses for Permanent Protections for Ruby Mountains



Washington, D.C. – At today’s hearing of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) spoke in support of her Ruby Mountains Protection Act, which would protect “Nevada’s Alps” from any future oil and gas leasing attempts. She also questioned Mr. Frank Beum, Acting Associate Deputy Chief of the National Forest System, on the National Forest Service’s decision not to support the Ruby Mountains Protection Act, despite the fact that the Forest Service recently concluded that the Ruby Mountain range is unfit for oil and gas drilling.

“I want to talk to you about Senate Bill 258, which is the Ruby Mountain Protection Act,” Cortez Masto said. “Help me understand how the Forest Service says one day that oil and gas leasing is not an appropriate activity there, but the next day you oppose a bill that says oil and gas leasing in that same area is not an appropriate activity?”  

Mr. Frank Beum replied, “We conducted the analysis on, as you mentioned, 54,000 acres of the Ranger District. That proposed action was brought to us by the Bureau of Land Management, who had an expression of interest from a member of the public. That’s how we did our analysis, based on that specific proposal. What we are saying in our testimony, is that we would use a similar process of environmental analysis to analyze a subsequent proposal.”

Cortez Masto continued, “Right. But you’ve already determined that oil and gas leasing is not appropriate there. In fact you issued a press release saying the analysis revealed ‘unfavorable geologic conditions in the area, meaning there is little to no potential of oil and gas resources in the area’. So why not make it permanent? Why go through this process gain? Because literally, my legislation makes it permanent, correct? And what you are doing doesn’t necessarily make it permanent, you are going to have to go through the process all over again if another request is made to look into oil and gas, correct? And you’re going to have to spend taxpayer funds to do that, correct?”

After Mr. Beum affirmed that Senator Cortez Masto was correct in her questioning, she continued, “I’m concerned particularly about this Administration playing politics with this, instead of doing the right thing. This is supported by Nevadans, it is supported by outdoorsmen and recreational folks, it is a benefit to the economy. Even your Forest Service administrator on the ground has said that, which is why you ruled that oil and gas leasing is not appropriate.”

When pressed again to defend his opposition to the permanent oil and gas leasing ban offered in Ruby Mountains Protection Act, Mr. Baum stated that “the department believes that we have the Administrative tools to analyze future proposals” for oil and gas leasing in the Ruby Mountains.

“Which is unnecessary in this case. You’ve made a determination, [my bill] makes it permanent. That is all I’m asking,” replied Cortez Masto.

Full video of this exchange is available here.