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While most of the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency are in a seemingly endless shutdown limbo, the priorities of the Trump Administration go on without a hitch. Two high profile examples came to light over the weekend — the preparation for newly nominated Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s confirmation hearing and the busiest offices of the Bureau of Land Management are opening today to process oil and gas drilling permits.
The Hill reported on Friday that Acting Administrator Wheeler, whose nomination was only formally sent to the Senate on Wednesday of last week, will have a confirmation hearing in the Senate on the 16th, even as Dems protest that his hearing prep is being considered essential business at EPA.
And, the Casper Star-Tribune reported on Friday that the four busiest field offices of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) — those in Wyoming — will open so that they can process applications for permits to drill, but with with a small staff and limits on what they can do, according to memo the Petroleum Association of Wyoming cited by the paper.
Bloomberg News reported last week that Interior Department is still issuing permits for oil companies to drill wells on federal land and in the Gulf of Mexico and is moving forward on oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other parts of Alaska.
But Bloomberg reported that fishing boats are unable to get permits in Alaska, and the public meeting for a wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts is on hold.
Why This Matters: The shutdown is inherently unfair. The Trump Administration is politicizing the determination of what is an “essential” government function — which is the key for what activities go on and which do not — in ways that favor oil and gas and other special interests close to the President and other political appointees. It is government “for” only certain favored people and businesses — like oil and gas. The only upside to Wheeler getting his hearing during the shutdown is that at least Democratic Senators can grill him about it.
To Go Deeper: Watch the CBS News video below about the hardship the shutdown is causing for individual employees at EPA and the Interior Department.
ll reports that on Friday, 14 Members of Congress (13 Republicans and 1 Democrat) asked the Trump Administration to use its authority to temporarily reduce or eliminate royalties they are required to pay the government under their leases.
Why This Matters: The oil and gas industry has received enough handouts.
Between coronavirus economic meltdown and the excess oil supply thanks to the Russia and Saudi Arabia price war, bidding on the latest oil and gas leases for sale in the Gulf of Mexico yesterday was lower than any sale since 1993 for the highly productive central Gulf, according to the Associated Press.
Why This Matters: Cheap sales like this are good for the industry but they are selling our national shared assets for pennies on the dollar.
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