You may have seen all the glowing reviews of Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell's Halloween speech trumpeting "the Administration's vision for conservation that will strengthen our economy and ensure that we pass along our nation's rich legacy to the next generation."
But watching Secretary Jewell's National Press Club speech during the "live" video feed and then reading the "prepared remarks" issued by the Interior department to the media, it was clear why there were so many glowing press reports: They were based on the official prepared remarks, not what Jewell actually said during the speech.
In an email blast the day after the speech, the former petroleum engineer, turned commercial banker, turned outdoor recreation industry executive at REI, Jewell wrote: "President Obama and I believe that we have a moral obligation to the next generation to leave our land, water, and wildlife better than we found it. At Interior, we are already playing an important role in fulfilling this mission - particularly during this time when our natural resources are facing unprecedented challenges from climate change and a growing population."
Part of this "moral obligation to the next generation" is focusing on a "landscape-level planning approach," a re-accruing theme in the Jewell's speech and the Q&A session. Apparently the Secretary of the Interior thinks the only thing American's care about is how good their public landscape looks on the surface, not how healthy it actually is beneath the surface.
"I know where President Obama stands," according to the official transcript of Jewell's speech. "The President believes that we have a moral obligation to the next generation to leave our land, water, and wildlife better than we found it. That's why he launched the America's Great Outdoors program in 2010. That's why he's taking comprehensive action to cut carbon pollution and to slow the effects of climate change. And that's why he has used his authority time and time again to protect some of the places that Americans love most."
Unfortunately, most reporters relied on the official transcript, rather the actual speech, so they missed Jewell's pro-drilling attitude.
In the milk-toast transcript version she mentions that the "balanced approach to development is especially what we need as we explore new frontiers in the Arctic, as we implement onshore leasing reforms, or as we experience an energy boom in the Bakken Region in North Dakota."
Again, sounds great.
But then she goes off-script in the actual speech to talk about her trip to North Dakota, where "I learned a lot about how companies were directionally drilling and have a smaller footprint on the land than the drilling methods that were used when I was in the industry."
There's that smaller footprint "landscape-level approach" theme again. In fact, she took the opportunity to announce her first Secretarial Order "to ensure that whenever our public lands or resources are impacted by development activity, that we are also considering how to mitigate those impacts at a landscape level through strategic conservation and restoration."
According to the "prepared remarks," Jewell was suppose to say that the Secretarial Order "will help Interior create a simpler, more straightforward approach for businesses to be good partners and good stewards of our public lands. Project proponents will be able to invest with certainty and clarity in their projects and support the region's environmental needs, rather than ad-hoc, project-by-project mitigation efforts."
Compare that to what she actually said during the speech:
"We're also considering how to mitigate these impacts and a landscape level through strategic conservation and restoration. So as a business person, I appreciate that there is an important role for government to oversee how our lands are developed. We rely, as business people, on government making those kinds of choices. I also know that there is nothing more frustrating than to be well into an investment and find your investment challenged. It gives you uncertainty, it results often times in costly delays and perhaps lawsuits. But by understanding our landscapes and guiding developments to the areas of highest resource value and lowest environmental concerns, we can reduce the likelihood of conflict. We can help businesses drive a more predictable return on investment, and that's what they're looking for."
Finally, several "bears-pooping-in-the-wilderness" jokes later (Yea, you missed those in the transcript too), the moderator of the Q&A session popped the "F" question: "Thirteen percent of all oil drilling and fracking is done on BLM land right now. Will that number rise in the future?"
"I'm going to talk about fracking for a second because I've fracked wells before," said Jewell, continuing to explain:
"Fracking has been an important tool in the toolbox for oil and gas for over 50 years. And some of the new techniques that are being used actually reduce the amount of foot print on the surface acreage in order to recover oil and gas from a much larger area, so this is an important tool. But it has to be done safely and responsibly. BLM is working on regulations that some of you are aware of.
We have a number of opportunities to continue to develop oil and gas on BLM lands and we will continue to see that happen. So if you take the example I used earlier of the national petroleum reserve in Alaska, you want to make sure you minimize the surface impact for a whole variety of reasons - species migration, sensitive ecosystem, permafrost, all of those kinds of things.
By using directional drilling and fracking, they have an opportunity to have a softer footprint on the land. But there's a lot of acreage that the BLM has that will be developed, so the short answer to your question is we'll likely do more because we'll be releasing more land to do it, but we're going to do it in a safe and responsible way."
Maybe it's just me, but she should have skipped Halloween and saved her "prepared remarks" for April Fool's Day, especially the part where she says: "The real test of whether you support conservation is not what you say in a press conference when the cameras are rolling."
So true, but the cameras are also rolling during the Q&A sessions.