Lawmakers are bowing to special interest groups, attempting to forward the sale or transfer of public lands including wilderness areas, wildlife refuges and national forests to state and local governments.
The following statement on the BLM’s White River RMP Amendment can be attributed to Nada Culver, Senior Director of Agency Policy and Planning for The Wilderness Society.
The U.S. Senate is debating its fiscal year 2016 budget resolution, a process that will include amendments affecting important programs that support forests, parks and conservation priorities.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is mapping the windiest public lands as it searches for the best places for wind energy development.
Comments from The Wilderness Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, and others submitted to the Bureau of Land Management regarding proposed rules for leasing land for wind and solar energy projects on federal lands.
No sooner had the Interior Department released new fracking rules for public lands than industry groups announced a lawsuit Friday to halt what they called “a reaction to unsubstantiated concerns.”
The new regulations pertain to hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas on about 756 million acres of federal and Indian land. They require companies to publicly disclose chemicals used during fracking, and include stricter standards for storing wastewater and for well construction.
In issuing the rule, Interior’s Bureau of Land Management aimed to update regulations that are more than 30 years old. A lot has changed, of course, about oil and gas development in those three decades—the combination of hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling has opened up vast new stores of oil and gas.
“These newer wells can, among other complexities, be significantly deeper and cover a larger horizontal area than the operations of the past,” the BLM says, requiring additional oversight. The rule notes that 36 million acres of federal land in 33 states have been leased for oil and gas development.
The rule drew scorn from the American Petroleum Institute, which called it “duplicative” and “unnecessary,” and from the Western Energy Alliance, which joined the Independent Petroleum Association of America in filing a suit to stop the regulation in federal district court in Wyoming.
But environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity also took a dim view of the BLM’s decisions. The CBD calls them “weak,” noting that they do not address methane leaks at drilling sites, and that they allow companies to wait until after the drilling is done to disclose chemicals used.
NRDC says they “put the interests of big oil and gas above people’s health, and America’s natural heritage.”
A spokesperson at Interior says that regulation pertaining to methane is a separate process, and that those rules are due “sometime this year.”
Amy Mall, senior fracking policy analyst at NRDC, says the fact that the BLM allows companies to withhold disclosures of chemicals considered “trade secrets” is a “huge concern.” Companies can get exemptions from revealing that a chemical was used during fracking if they submit an affidavit with specific information about why the material needs to be kept secret, according to the rule.
BLM also allows for state or tribal regulations to trump its own if they “meet or exceed the objectives of this rule.”
Mall says that’s too vague, leaving it unclear how exactly standards would be implemented in different states: “The devil is in the details.”
On March 17, 2015, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell addressed a packed house with a bold agenda for energy development on public lands for the next two years. This agenda focuses on locking in critical reforms that help protect wildlands, clean air, and clean water.
[ CAP, The Wilderness Society Call on Obama Administration to Account for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Fossil Fuels Extracted from America’s Public Lands and Waters ]
Greenhouse gas, or GHG, emissions from the oil, gas, and coal extracted on federal lands and waters account for more than 20 percent of all U.S. GHG emissions and 24 percent of all U.S.
Since its approval by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, the Antiquities Act has been used on a bipartisan basis by 16 presidents, serving as an important contingency plan for when Congress is unable to act swiftly to protect public lands.