In separate actions yesterday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and California Assemblymember Pedro Nava put out clear signals that neither the federal government nor the State of California are willing to roll over and give the oil companies whatever they ask for, which has too often been at the expense of both our environment and our economy.

Salazar’s reforms, which affect drilling on public lands and offshore, mean the Bureau of Land Management no longer will simply accept oil and gas industry nominations when the agency is compiling a list of parcels to be offered at auction. New policies will mean BLM officials will conduct on-the-ground analyses of parcels for potential resource conflicts before they are listed for leasing. This will allow more organizations and individuals with wildlife, cultural-resource and environmental concerns to provide information that could counter industry interests. Predictably, oil companies howled. Secretary Salazar responded: “Under the previous administration, the oil and gas companies were essentially kings of the world, with Interior their handmaiden. Those from the industry who are crying out are simply crying because we are being thoughtful and supporting development in the right way and the right places.”

In California, Assemblymember Nava introduced the Oil Industry Fair Share Act, which will establish an oil severance tax of 10% on the gross value of each barrel of crude oil pumped by companies in California. This tax will provide more than $1.5 billion in revenue to the General Fund annually. “California oil companies are getting a free ride. Right now, California is the only major oil producing state that does not charge a severance tax on oil extraction. It is time for California to catch up with Alaska, Texas, Alabama, and Arkansas. We need to collect the people’s share of this revenue source by forcing Big Oil to pay its fair share,” said Nava.