Fresh off of a successful re-election bid, Southern New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce proceeded back to DC to vote against the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 (NDAA), a bill containing fiscal authorization for all of our country’s defense efforts and pay raises for our military.
Pearce’s vote apparently came in opposition to provisions in the bill that would have also protected 250,000 in (already) public lands in New Mexico from exploitation by special interests angling to log and drill our public lands.
In a statement before the vote, Senators Udall and Heinrich proudly noted, “[the Senators] successfully fought to include provisions to designate the Columbine-Hondo as wilderness, transition the Valles Caldera National Preserve to new management to increase public access, and establish the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.”
Pearce, a self-made oil and gas millionaire, on the other hand, has made it his mission to “reverse this trend of public ownership of lands.” A video from CPAC, the nation’s largest conservative conference, features Pearce explaining to other conservatives how Utah Congressman Rob Bishop and himself were lobbying Mitt Romney to sell drilling and mining rights on federal public lands to states if elected president.
Just before the election in 2012, The Nation reported that Romney’s energy platform, which included the Pearce-Bishop proposal, would open oil and gas drilling permiting on federal lands to state regulators. This would jeopardize the openness and access to millions of acres of public lands across the west.
In fact, the central plank of Romney’s proposed energy policy would transfer control of energy production on federal lands to the states—a long-sought goal of the 1970s Sagebrush Rebellion (a concerted Western campaign for more “local”—i.e. industry—control of public lands), most recently expressed in bills and ballot initiatives pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council and its right-wing puppets in several Western states. The sole stated purpose of such a transfer is to expedite oil and gas extraction on those lands by essentially monopolizing them for industrial use. As Romney knows, the states are far friendlier to fossil fuel extraction than the federal government, and their regulatory mechanisms are woefully ill-equipped to deal with complicated health and safety concerns, according to Christy Goldfuss, director of the public lands project for the Center for American Progress.
Last week’s vote against the NDAA is just one more example of Pearce’s extreme pro-corporate agenda expressed in Congress. Make no mistake: politics and voting in Congress is about choosing priorities. With his vote, Pearce lined up with oil, gas and mining special interests over our country’s need for defense, and pay raises for our soldiers in uniform domestically and overseas.