Former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt addresses Garfield County Energy Forum
America’s energy future is bright, even if the Biden administration’s policies are a little fuzzy, former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said Thursday at the annual energy and environment symposium. at NewCastle.
Bernhardt, a Rifle native who rose from his job as a natural resources lawyer in Denver to head the Department of the Interior under former President Donald Trump from 2017 to 2021, provided a critical analysis of this shift in politics as the keynote speaker at the event co-hosted by Garfield County and the Colorado Mesa University Unconventional Energy Center.
Working with two different administrations, first as a lawyer under President George W. Bush’s Interior Secretary Gale Norton and then as department head under Trump, Bernhardt said he understood the importance of a strong energy policy.
The Bush years were punctuated by a reluctance to open Florida’s coast to offshore drilling, even amid rising gas prices as his presidency drew to a close.
Continued reliance on foreign oil came with the Obama years, and now again with President Biden, Bernhardt said.
Trump’s policy, by contrast, was based on regaining American energy independence and opening up export markets through aggressive liquefied natural gas deals.
“It was a very important part of his national security and foreign affairs strategy, and he liked it because it was very transactional,” Bernhardt said.
“I personally think having these additional tools as part of your strategy gives you a robust energy menu to work with,” he said. “High production has a huge effect on what Americans do around the world, so to start rolling back from there doesn’t make sense from a national security standpoint, nor does it make sense to me from a economic view.
“It’s especially difficult when you say to yourself, ‘I’m not for American energy from fossil fuels, but I am for fossil fuels from other countries.’ This to me is an absolutely ridiculous position,” Bernhardt said in his critique of the current administration.
That said, “My vision for the future is great,” he said, “because at the end of the day, I fundamentally believe that the world is growing and people around the world want to make the transition to the future. before in their lives, and to do that, they needed fossil fuels.
Bernhardt provided an analysis of his work during the Trump transition and that of the Biden administration, which he said were effective in achieving two very different policy goals regarding public lands and natural resources.
“Biden, the nominee, was very clear in his political vision … and did whatever it took to undo the Trump administration,” Bernhardt said.
The results were immediate, he observed.
As of December 2020, the Bureau of Land Management issued 864 Drilling Permit Applications (APDs). That number fell to 164 ODA approvals in December 2021, and by January this year that number had fallen to 95.
“It’s, as pure analysis, a pretty good job of implementing the president’s vision,” Bernhardt said.
Somewhat of a surprise given that vision, however, Biden agreed to back the Nordstream gas pipeline project from Russia to Germany and open other routes for foreign imports. Biden would later withdraw his support for Nordstream after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
A major focus of the two-day energy and environment symposium concerned Colorado’s new, stricter regulations on oil and gas development under SB19-181.
Presenters included representatives from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Department of Public Health and Environment, who discussed the regulatory regulations arising from this legislation and the requirements of the environmental justice last year.
Participants also took a field trip Wednesday to a natural gas facility south of Rifle.
When it comes to responding to these new regulations, whether at the state or federal level, Bernhardt said it’s important that rural communities in energy-dependent areas are at the table.
“Someone has to speak for these people,” he said, recounting his own experience growing up in Rifle during the oil shale boom and bust. “It’s not the industry’s job to speak on behalf of these people, and I assure you it’s not the bureaucracy’s job.”
Local governments are best equipped to ensure that voice is heard, Bernhardt said. “Whatever your community thinks, there is someone around the table who has a different opinion. You need to understand how to get involved and how to participate in these processes.
Senior Reporter/Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or [email protected]