The Drillin’ Man: In the Era of

The recently released Interior Department’s latest report on drilling is largely silent on climate change, and doesn’t address the question of what to do about it. The Interior’s Bureau of Land Management found that…

The Drillin’ Man: In the Era of

The recently released Interior Department’s latest report on drilling is largely silent on climate change, and doesn’t address the question of what to do about it. The Interior’s Bureau of Land Management found that the construction of new oil and gas leases in public lands is largely unavoidable given where the available gas is, and that doing so will probably do little to boost short-term production. The topic of climate change was not discussed in the 248-page draft report released Thursday, and in fact it appears as if climate change, which is already manifesting itself in dangerous ways from wildfires and heat waves to sea level rise, did not even come up during the presidential election campaign.

When Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke tapped Geoffrey Heal as the report’s lead author, he signaled that the Obama administration had strayed from many of its former mandates. In the report, Heal writes, “It is not the intent of this report to offer policy recommendations” for further drilling in the Trump administration. Instead, the report gives Zinke and the Trump administration space to quietly set the direction for drilling. For some drilling supporters, this report is long overdue. The Bureau of Land Management in 2015 shelved a similarly long-awaited study.

Drilling Critics Speak Out: Joint Congressionally Directive on Resource Conservation, Assistance, and Development in Domestic Oil and Gas Resources “Peacetime Production Standards” Order (33 USC. 415): Requires the Bureau of Land Management to adopt policies for the conservation and management of resources onshore and offshore that are consistent with the National Climate Assessment and corresponding requirements of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Text https://doi.gov/climatemanagement.

Future Drill Minister: The Swearing In of Scott Pruitt, who vowed to “bring American energy dominance back” – great prospect for US jobs https://www.politico.com/story/2018/04/young-weatheberg-says-the-time-is-now-to-relaunch-us-oil-and-gas-industry-16270.html. Drilling in the Arctic may be in trouble, but in the world’s third largest oil reserve, offshore Alaska, offshore West Virginia and in the Atlantic there’s plenty of oil – all worth drilling for. The Trump administration has set up a wave of deregulation to give fracking and drilling a new lease on life.

Up until a few weeks ago, Senate Democrats and progressives had also aimed to sideline President Trump and the GOP’s energy agenda with a bill that would prevent the president from issuing any new leases for drilling in the Atlantic or Arctic. In response, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke offered to rule that the future lease of the Arctic offshore would be subject to a new application of the Obama-era law that ensured that public input was taken into account when deciding which areas to open up to drilling.

Last week the Associated Press reported that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had found that there was insufficient evidence to warrant Arctic drilling and had decided not to rule on Zinke’s proposal. In the memo, NOAA would not say why the announcement was made to “avoid raising regulatory uncertainty,” but said the timing was coincidental. The Republican-led House approved a bill repealing the Obama-era rules on Arctic drilling in September.

The issue of whether this oil can be safely drilled in the Arctic continues to be a subject of fierce debate. Democratic lawmakers are trying to press the Interior Department to open a new phase of offshore oil leases in the Arctic. On Wednesday, 60 members of Congress from the Safe Climate Caucus sent Zinke a letter, signed by 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, with recommendations for Arctic oil drilling: “Immediately, lease 60 percent of the proposed Beaufort Sea offshore oil and gas lease area to fossil fuel companies, using a new interpretation of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and EPA regulations.”

It is unlikely that the Trump administration will heed such advice. The administration is locked in a fight with states over offshore drilling and the impending push to permit drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic. In Washington state, officials have tried to ban any offshore drilling. The TransCanada project to construct the Keystone XL pipeline, a Trump administration priority, is in limbo, as the state of Nebraska has determined that the pipeline would threaten the aquifer that serves more than eight million people.

These fights illustrate a fundamental point: Energy development cannot happen in the absence of regulation.

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