President-elect Trump has nominated freshman Member of Congress Ryan Zinke of Montana to lead the Interior Department, the agency charged with governing most of our public lands and all federally owned minerals. Although Congressman Zinke has repeatedly stated his commitment to keeping public lands public, he recently joined House Republicans to vote for a rule that would make it easier to transfer federal public lands to states.
“As public health risks grow due to climate change and associated water scarcity, Congress is shrinking from its duty to protect the public. The latest example of this irresponsibility came today when the House of Representatives passed The Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2017 (HR 5338) which is laden with provisions that put taxpayers, the public and our environment at risk, including:
WASHINGTON, December 5, 2013 – A broad group of regional and national environmental and health organizations, joined by sporting and faith-based allies, today called on Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to substantially reduce emissions of methane from the oil and gas industry on public and private lands, as well as from offshore oil operations. In an open letter, the organizations invoked President Obama’s June 2013 statement that “curbing emissions of methane is critical to our overall effort to address global climate change,” and recommended three essential pathways to clean up methane emissions and set the nation on a path to cut domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.
Today, President Obama announced his choice to replace Ken Salazar as Secretary of Interior. The President picked Sally Jewell, the current head of Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI). REI is a well-known retail outfitter based in Seattle, Washington. The President had a number of excellent options available to him and we salute the selection of Ms. Jewell. If confirmed by the Senate, Ms. Jewell will face a number of critical decisions related to the competing interests of expanding oil and gas development on public lands while preserving those lands for future generations.
On Friday afternoon, the United States Department of Interior (DOI) released their proposed rules to govern hydraulic fracturing on public lands. Many of us in the environmental community eagerly anticipated the release of these rules because they signal the second clear indication of how the Obama Administration would regulate fracking. The Environmental Protection Agency had earlier released rules related to air emissions from natural gas facilities. Although most fracking regulation occurs at the state level, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management has jurisdiction over an enormous acreage and therefore sets the standard for how the states might approach the issue.