Yesterday, Congressman Zinke gave westerners a few things to hope for when it comes to protecting some of our most important places, and public lands programs in the hearing on this nomination to become Secretary of the Interior. He reiterated his opposition to selling our nation’s public lands and support for permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Unfortunately, he will not have it as easy as he did today when big oil CEOs ask for unfettered access to drill on land that belongs to all Americans. The job of Secretary of the Interior is much more than refusing to sell national parks and opening new fishing access sites. It is also about making sure everyone—from oil companies to rafting companies—plays by the same set of rules on our public lands.
Nowhere has that been more true than on the millions of dollars big oil companies waste when they vent, flare, and leak natural gas — a problem that costs taxpayers millions annually. That’s why it was so disappointing that Congressman Zinke went on record supporting a congressional review of the BLM methane waste rule. This would end up pre-empting the BLM from ever ensuring a fair return to the American taxpayer and stop the needless waste of American energy.
If Congressman Zinke truly wants to follow the path of balance he espoused yesterday, he should not only reverse his position on the BLM methane rule, but but also stay the course on sage grouse, and keep up reforms that put recreation on an equal footing.
But to do that he’ll have to stand up to the special interests that backed his political career. Despite the silver linings of the incoming Secretary’s support for a few important public lands priorities, his ties to big oil gives us just as many reasons to be deeply concerned.
There is a long road ahead, but if Congressman Zinke sides fails to maintain a level playing field on public lands, westerners will hold him accountable for putting special interests ahead of our best interests.