BLM can't ignore the risks oil/gas development

By Cynthia Wutchiett


Dear Editor:

If we have a car accident, or our house burns down, or we get sick we assume that our insurance company will have the money to reimburse us for the loss. Or pay our bills.

But the insurance companies do not take their ability to pay for granted. They are always on guard against loading up on risk. If you have a few too many accidents, or a couple of DUIs, most companies won't insure you. You will be sent to the assigned risk pool, and you will pay through the nose because you were reckless, or thoughtless, or maybe just unlucky.

But what happens when an entire planet is reckless, or thoughtless? What if an entire planet assumes it can get away with driving forever under the influence of fossil fuel without getting caught? How do you put billions of people into an assigned risk pool?

That's what three of the world's biggest insurance companies are confronting. If those companies are right, when your house burns down, or a "freak" storm destroys it, or crippling drought or unexpected flooding causes massive losses, the companies KNOW that they won't be able to fulfill their obligation to you.

And so those huge insurance companies -- Aviva, Aegon and Amlin, which together manage $1.2 trillion in assets -- are basically assigning the Planet Earth to the assigned risk pool. They put out a statement in August saying that due to our collective reckless use of fossil fuels, they are in future danger of not being able to fulfill their contractual obligations to their policy holders due to the impacts -- flood, fire, storms, drought -- of global climate change.

What do these conservative, bottom-line focused multinational companies suggest? That for starters, nations stop subsidizing fossil fuels. One of the biggest subsidies in the U.S. occurs when the Bureau of Land Management leases publicly-owned lands for a pittance -- often for as little as $2 per acre. Meanwhile, the real costs associated with damage to the environment and human health are not paid by polluters -- they are foisted on us, the residents of local communities.

Given the impact of oil and gas development on our health and environment, why is the BLM ignoring what even the multi-national insurance giants have come to realize? The Bureau of Land Management in the Uncompahgre Field Office in Montrose has recently issued its draft Resource Management Plan that outlines how the land within the UFO will be managed for the next 15 to 20 years. In considering oil and gas development, the plan recommends that 95 percent of the area be available for lease. An oil and gas no-leasing alternative wasn't even considered!

I urge the BLM to face irrefutable facts and acknowledge that our community's water, agriculture, and climate are far more important than creating another industrialized zone in western Colorado and proceed with a no-lease alternative for fossil fuel extraction in the planning area.

Cynthia Wutchiett
Paonia