Conservation Update: Some in House Want Bristol Bay, West Coast Opened to Drilling

Sportsmen wondering why certain House members -- who claim to be the sportsmen's voice in Congress -- keep pushing to open up oil drilling in some of the nation's most sensitive fishing areas can get a good idea from this recent interview with Randal Luthi on Environment and Energy TV.

Luthi claims that the push by the House GOP to lift the Obama Administration's protection from Alaska's Bristol Bay and the coasts off Washington, Oregon, California and Maine is the right thing to do -- even though his industry already has access to more than 75 percent of the nation's offshore waters.

You probably don't know who Luthi is, but it's a good bet your congress person does: He's president of the National Ocean Industries Association, the powerful lobby of offshore oil and gas. Since 1998, oil and gas has spent $1.2 billion lobbying congress. It spent $149 million last year alone and has already forked out $37.8 million this year, all according to the authoritative Web site, OpenSecrets.org.

A key exchange in this interview:

"EETV: In the Senate though, Senators Vitter and Coats have released a bill that would take energy issues out of the hands of the Interior Department and they cite a lapse in offshore production under the Obama administration. Do efforts like this, are they effective or do they simply serve as sort of a distraction or adding more noise to the discussion?

"Randall Luthi: I think what they help do is call attention to the problem and I think that's one way to do it, is you say look at Interior. They're now offering fewer sales than they ever have in their past. You know, is there something, another approach we should try? So I think it actually adds somewhat not necessarily to the noise, but it does shine a little more light on what we think is a very important issue."

That should give sportsmen a good idea of where this powerful industry is moving. Taking energy out of Interior would remove it from some of the strongest laws protecting fish, wildlife and, most importantly, public lands.

Sportsmen's groups oppose the House bill, and not because they oppose all energy development. It's because they share the belief expressed by most Americans that some places- some public places - are too important as permanent homes for fish and wildlife to disturb for temporary financial gain. (www.sportsmen4responsibleenergy.org).