Imagine this: you’re hiking down Bright Angel trail into the Grand Canyon, when suddenly you come upon a “Trail Closed” sign. A natural gas pipeline has ruptured, the sign says, and as a result all the trails are closed; the Colorado River is off limits to rafters and fishers; and it definitely doesn’t smell so good. So you turn around and decide to go somewhere else for the day—a huge bummer, whether you flew all the way here or live right around the corner.
As of right now, that situation is, thankfully, largely hypothetical. Agencies can’t approve pipelines in the Grand Canyon—or any national park, for that matter—without oversight from Congress. But Rep. McArthur’s National Energy Security Corridor Act, being marked-up over the next few days in the House Natural Resources Committee, seeks to change that.
National parks are frequently referred to as “America’s best idea.” For each federal dollar spent on them, national parks generate $10 in economic activity, and have countless positive economic effects for surrounding communities. In fact, visitors to national parks across the country spent over $15.7 billion in gateway communities outside of parks, which translates into $29.7 billion in overall economic output.
If this act passes, we could see natural gas pipelines popping up in national parks throughout the country—pipelines that are approved by a single agency, with no outside consideration. While this may sound like a faster approach, it cuts out public input. And with pipeline accidents resulting in 321 fatalities over the last 10 years (according to an NPCA factsheet), the public might have something to say about that.
Pipelines through these pristine places could not only tarnish the landscape—they could put western economies at risk. If national parks are America’s best idea, then fast-track approval of pipelines through them is one of Congress’ worst.