Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s report to the White House that focused on supposed burdens to public lands energy development was due September 24th. Now, with both the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the White House silent, the public cannot confirm whether the report was submitted at all.
The report, required by President Trump’s “American Energy Independence” executive order from March, was due to the White House on Sunday and has not been made public by the DOI or the White House. It is widely expected that this report will eliminate key protections for western public lands and waters, sweeten an already great deal for industry at the expense of American taxpayers, and prevent the public from having a say in where and how development takes place.
Chris Saeger, Director of the Western Values Project, issued the following statement:
Since being appointed to manage the nation’s public lands, Secretary Zinke has been giving back to special interests in the oil and gas industry at the expense of all other public lands users, like hunters and anglers. After recommending the largest reduction of protected wildlife habitat in U.S. history, which could benefit a few oil, gas and mining corporations, and pushing irresponsible development in sagebrush country, we have no doubt that this report is another giveaway to the industry that backed Zinke’s political ascension. In an administration that favors special interests over public lands users, it’s no surprise that the American public has been kept out of the conversation.”
Analysis by the Western Values Project in the Rigged series found that industry is already given preferential treatment to develop public lands. Even the oil and gas industry is concerned by the unchecked regulatory rollback, asking the administration to ‘pump the brakes,’ fearing one BP type catastrophe could be disastrous.
The outdoor recreation industry is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the country, generating $887 billion in consumer spending each year and support 7.6 million jobs. Thus far, not one representative from the outdoor recreation industry has been appointed to a position at Interior.
Oil and gas development is already the dominant use of America’s public lands, with leasing already allowed on 90 percent of public lands in the west. Over the past few months, Secretary Zinke’s Bureau of Land Management announced a series of oil and gas leases bordering or close to some national parks and national monuments.
In scrapping the collaborative sage-grouse plans adopted in 2015 with bi-partisan support, Secretary Zinke took nearly every recommendation requested by the oil and gas industry and ignored input from Western Governors. Sagebrush country supports over one billion dollars in recreation-related economic activity.
The biggest burden oil and gas development faces on public lands are market prices, not common-sense regulations that protect hunting, fishing, habitat, wildlife, water, other users and taxpayers.