Questions for Zinke ahead of his speech to the Heritage Foundation

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is set to share his ‘vision for American energy dominance’ with the oil and gas-funded Heritage Foundation. Secretary Zinke has been aggressively working behind closed doors, without public input on public land decisions, to roll back commonsense regulations.

Some facts to keep in mind during Zinke’s speech:

Given these realities, some important questions for the Secretary:

  1. Why are you calling for more leases when there is little to no demand? Oil and gas companies have access to 90 percent of Western public lands and there is a drilling backlog of several years.
  2. Are you concerned that fast-tracking permitting and regulatory rollbacks will allow some unscrupulous companies to run roughshod over America’s public lands, potentially leading to a disaster? Even industry has voiced concerns over the administration’s aggressive regulatory rollback, saying they don’t want something disastrous to happen that would open the industry to additional criticism. They also understand the importance of predictability and certainty.
  3. Do new permitting requirements give the public enough time to review proposed leasing that may be in or near their communities? After announcing a one-size fits all 30-day oil and gas permitting requirement for state Bureau of Land Management offices, in Zinke’s home state of Montana BLM employees cited public objections as one of the driving factors in permitting delays.
  4. Why haven’t we seen the ‘burdens report’ that was due last week? As part of the President’s executive order on energy, the Interior Department was supposed to submit a report on the ‘burdens’ facing energy development to the Office of Management of Budget on September 24. Nothing has been made public, and many questions remain. Did Zinke submit a report? Who did Interior consult with regarding the potential burdens? Will it be available to the public?
  5. Why are you throwing out bipartisan sage-grouse management plan and proposing new federal mandates on Western communities? Federally mandating amendments to state sage-grouse management plans will presumably grant more access to oil and gas companies to drill in critical sagebrush habitat. This puts at risk extensive wildlife habitat and access by other public land users, like ranchers and hunters.
  6. Will you issue any corrections to your error-ridden report on national monuments? Zinke’s recommendations to reduced certain national monuments were leaked to the public. A review by New Mexico Senator Heinrich and other conservation groups found that the report was factually inaccurate in many areas.
  7. Why does the outdoor recreation industry have zero representation at the Department of the Interior? The outdoor recreation industry is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the country, generating $887 billion in consumer spending each year and supporting 7.6 million jobs. Public lands are the lifeblood of this industry, as national parks alone generated $34.9 billion in economic output in 2016. “Energy dominance” endangers the economic well-being of western communities. Thus far, not one representative from the outdoor recreation industry has been appointed to a position at Interior.

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