Number 1: Trump & Zinke Aim to Kill Teddy’s Legacy
It was 110 years, 10 months, and 20 days ago Teddy Roosevelt signed one of his hallmark pieces of legislation, the Antiquities Act, that protected millions of acres of public land, cultural history, historic places, and important artifacts from decades of looting, desecration, and destruction. Roosevelt’s law, which has protected the places that American’s value the most, has stood the test of time until now. President Trump has moved forward with one of the most unprecedented attacks on National Monuments, the Antiquities Act, and public lands in modern history. Flanked by Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, a self-proclaimed ‘Teddy Roosevelt’ guy, Trump signed an executive order to challenge the act and shrink and even rescind national monuments.
Number 2: Disastrous Budget for Public Lands
Trump’s budget blueprint, as introduced, would cut $1.6 billion from the Department of Interior and $4.7 billion from the Department of Agriculture, the two largest land managers in the federal government. With escalating firefighting costs for the U.S. Forest Service, 52% of their budget in FY 2015, and the National Parks $12.5 billion maintenance backlog, this budget guts both departments and leaves the nations land managers hands’ tied. This ‘budget blueprint’ is so bad that even Secretary Zinke vowed to fight it, only to flip-flop a couple of weeks later.
Number 3: Taxpayer Royalties Go Up in Smoke for Special Interest
The Congressional Review Act resolution to repeal the BLM methane waste rule already slithered its way through the House. Now, the Senate claims to be poised to repeal the rule very soon, with Vice President Pence potentially casting the tie-breaking vote. President Trump also issued an executive order that instructs the Department of the Interior (DOI) “to review the BLM’s Methane and Waste Prevention Rule. If the methane and waste prevention rule is repealed by Congress and the Trump Administration, taxpayers will see at least 800 million in royalties go up in smoke over the next decade.
Number 4: Trump Fills the Swamp with Special Interest Appointees
Interior pick Secretary Zinke is giving back to the special interests that have been so kind to him as a politician. He took over $345,000 in campaign cash from big oil & gas and made sure to return the favor, supporting the expedited construction of pipelines across National Parks and proposing a budget rider to allow coal companies to dodge royalties in Congress. Zinke hasn’t stopped paying them back as Secretary either, also see #5, #6, #3, #9, #1, and #10.
Trump and Zinke are rounding out their appointments with more swamp creatures. Kate MacGregor, a former lobbyist, was appointed on April 6th and is a long-time supporter of expanding oil and gas production on national public lands. The lobbying firm for Zinke’s candidate for Deputy Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, has already gotten a big win from the Department. Bernhardt was also a member of the Trump transition team. The LA Times reports that Bureau of Land Management has reversed the underpinnings of an order that blocked Cadiz Inc.’s plans to extract desert groundwater in California for sale. Bernhardt and his lobbying firm stand to make millions off this sweetheart deal. Let’s hope the Senate holds him accountable on the Cadiz water project, the Abramoff scandals, and whether he believes public lands are good for anything besides drilling and mining.
Number 5: Short-Changed Taxpayers for Coal Cronies
Trump lifted the coal-lease moratorium and oversight on federal lands. Secretary Zinke, when in Congress, proposed a budget rider “that would allow some of the world’s biggest coal companies to continue to dodge royalty payments.” The previous administration thought higher of taxpayers. Now without the rule, coal companies can continue to shortchange taxpayers “on revenue that could be used for schools, roads, and other priorities.” If the rule stayed in place “taxpayers in states like Montana would see millions of additional income.”
Number 6: Drilling for Oil in National Parks
Trump’s ‘American Energy First’ executive order includes a small but important sentence that makes “it easier for energy companies to drill for oil in national parks” and historic sites. A lead oil & gas industry lobbying group president was so excited he even said, “This opportunity is unique, maybe once in a lifetime.” Some 42 parks have been identified as at risk for oil and gas development.
Number 7: Frack No, We Don’t Want Disclosure
Fracking fluid is nasty stuff. Unfortunately, big oil and gas companies have claimed that the toxic mix is proprietary information and have worked to block any attempts to disclose the harmful chemical ingredients. The previous administration began the process to disclose the chemicals used on public land. Trump and Zinke halted the rule-making process and rolled back any attempt of disclosure of the toxic chemicals.
Number 8: Slashed the Land and Water Conservation Funds
The Land and Water Conservation Fund has seen resounding bipartisan support during its history, not using taxpayer dollars, but instead investing royalties from off-shore oil leases into local communities for things like trails, parks, and fishing access sites. President Trump proposed “at least a 70 percent cut in the Land and Water Conservation Fund over current spending levels, already reduced by congressional sequestration.”
Number 9: Repealed the Stream Protection Rule (SPR)
President Trump signed a repeal of the Stream Protection Rule (SPR), which “would have required companies to avoid mining practices that permanently pollute streams and destroy drinking water sources.” The SPR would keep “toxic mining waste out of… waterways” that “small business owners, anglers, farmers and ranchers in Montana…rely on…to support their way of life.” The SPR “was an important measure that guarded” Montana’s “waterways from toxic mining run-off, protected…fishing spots, protected… livestock, and protected the thousands of related jobs in the outdoor recreation industry and the agricultural industry.”
Number 10: Scaled Back Oversight for Special Interest
A leaked “BLM Priority Work” list calls on BLM to “ease unspecified ‘processes’” mandated by National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and “to streamline ‘land use planning to support energy and minerals development and other priorities.’” The list promises to open even more land to oil and gas development and speed up permitting for all kinds of resource development.
The Trump/Zinke team have already left an apocalyptic public lands and irresponsible energy legacy in just 100 days. Maybe the only good news is we are already 6.8 percent of the way through this administration.