Trump Administration Will Open Millions More Acres of Public Lands to Oil and Gas Drilling

Photo: Monica Medina

The Trump Administration announced that it intends to open tens of millions of acres of national forest land for oil and gas drilling, and they will not evaluate whether the areas being opened will cause any environmental impacts, nor will they give the public advance notice, The Hill reports.  The Bureau of Land Management, which handles lease sales, will be allowed to move forward with sales on land owned by the U.S. Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture without regard to their environmental consequences in order to minimize the “red” tape and reduce redundancies in the government, under a new proposed rule published today.

Why This Matters:  The Trump team seems to be speeding up their desperate efforts to help fossil fuels as the first (and hopefully only) term nears an end.  There is no economic or national security rationale for this.  The lease sales they are doing now are attracting fewer and fewer bidders.  And it is essentially a give away since they are reducing the royalty payments they are supposed to collect.  There is plenty of oil and gas on the market.  And fewer lenders are willing to underwrite the cost of these new oil and gas facilities.

Big Oil Requested This Change

James Osbourne of The Houston Chronicle reports that “In 2018, the American Petroleum Institute and the Independent Petroleum Producers of America wrote to the federal government recommending a series of changes at the Forest Service, including a review of its land management plans.”  One of their requests, apparently, was better “coordination” over leases sales between the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management at the Interior Department that actually conducts the sales.  Osbourne writes that the “oil and gas industry has long lobbied for changes to rules governing oil and gas drilling in federal forests and grasslands.”  The Forest Service has 190 million acres of land under its jurisdiction and control.

Environmental Groups Pledged To Fight It

“This proposal would basically make the Forest Service a rubber stamp for the fossil fuel industry,” Michael Saul, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a release that The Hill picked up. “We face accelerating climate change, fire and drought, and the last thing we should be doing is making it easier to auction off our irreplaceable national forests for destructive drilling and fracking.”

What You Can Do: Let the Department of Agriculture know you object to the rule change by sending an email via the Federal eRulemaking Portal here  — once you click, then in the Search box that pops up enter 0596-AD33, which is the identification number for this proposed rule.

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