Today’s Assault on Public Lands and the Environment

Drilling in national parks, globing warming methane leaks, lions, and tigers, and bears.

It’s hard to keep up. Sorry, guys, there’s just one of me and so many of them out there trying to enrich their supporters or hold onto their power while giving the environment a massive wedgie. Today, the House of Representatives voted to repeal an Obama administration rule that reduced air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from methane on Bureau of Land Management. I know that sounds boring, but it’s a big deal.

As the Durango Herald described it, “In 2014, NASA discovered a methane cloud the size of Delaware hovering over the San Juan Basin. Although this area includes a vast outcrop that releases methane naturally, there are more than 23,000 gas wells in Southwest Colorado and northern New Mexico. These wells are flared, vented and, inevitably, there are leaks – in pipelines too.

“Methane waste is not a new problem. In 2014, Colorado adopted legislation to reduce human-produced methane emissions – a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide – and wasted gas, improve air quality and recoup lost revenue.

“This past November, modeled in part on the success of Colorado’s regulations, the Bureau of Land Management finalized rules, that had not been updated in 30 years, to capture methane emissions from oil and gas operations on BLM-managed public and tribal lands.”

BLM spent years studying the situation. It consulted with locals. It fielded more than 300,000 public comments. And the plan it developed would have captured $330 million in lost methane, enough to fuel 174,000 homes, and dramatically reduce a major contributor to climate change.

Today, the House kicked all that work to the curb on a vote of 221 to 191, mostly along party lines. Three Democrats voted to repeal the rule, while 11 GOP members voted against it. You can see how your representative voted here. Next, the resolution goes to the Senate.

Also this week, Representative Paul Gosar, a Republican from Arizona, introduced House Joint Resolution 46, a bill that would make it easier to drill inside national parks.

It’s all very complicated, as these things often are. HJ Res. 46 would remove a rule that “require[s] detailed planning and set safety standards for oil and gas drilling inside the more than 40 national parks that have ‘split estate’ ownership, where the federal government owns the surface but not the subsurface mineral rights,” writes the National Parks Conservation Association.

Currently, parks can say no to drilling operations if they think there’s an environmental threat. Since most Americans seem to think that national parks and drilling go together like chocolate ice cream and battery acid, this would appear to be a good thing. But not to Gosar, who is so antagonistic to the environment that he boycotted the pope’s 2015 speech to Congress because it touched on climate change. He also earned himself a shockingly low three percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters for a woeful voting track record.

“The resolution is just the latest in a series of moves by federal lawmakers to weaken environmental protections for national parks under the Congressional Review Act,” wrote the association. “If these repeals are signed into law…it will not only stop these protections, it will also prohibit agencies from issuing similar rules and protections in the future, unless directed by Congress.”

The resolution has not been put into committee yet. You can follow its progress here.

Photo of North Park, Colorado, by WildEarth Guardians

To take action, call your members of Congress in either their D.C. or regional offices. With the chaotic transition of the Trump administration, many D.C. phone lines are busy or mailboxes are full. Google your reps’ names and “contact” and you should easily find a page listing all their numbers. Not sure who your rep is? Go here.

Adventure Journal is free but relies on reader support to make stories like this possible. Please join the thousands of your fellow adventurers and subscribe to our amazing printed quarterly or pick up an issue here.


Steve Casimiro is the editor of Adventure Journal. Follow him on Instagram at @stevecasimiro.
  • Nicholas H

    Thank you for keeping this reporting up. We can’t become numb to this type of news and must keep it from being glossed over.

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