Leaked Interior Department Plan Puts Energy First, Environment Last

The first DOI ‘Strategic Plan’ in 5 years is big on drilling, low on conserving


The porous Trump administration continues to leak documents and intel at an impressive rate. Late last week, a draft of the Department of the Interior’s new Strategic Plan surfaced, outlining its management vision for the next five years. If you’ve been following along at home since Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke first rode in on his literal horse, you likely won’t be surprised by its contents – after all, this document was created to reflect the policies and platforms of an administration stubbornly hell-bent on undoing as much of President Obama’s legacy as possible.

A quick primer: from its inception, the Trump administration touted its “America First Energy Plan,” the description of which on the White House website reads like a poorly staged game of two truths and a lie (hint: the “lie” is a line that asserts “Protecting clean air and clean water, conserving our natural habitats, and preserving our natural reserves and resources will remain a high priority.”). The plan posits environmental protection polices like the Climate Action Plan as “harmful and unnecessary,” and boasts a commitment to the ridiculous concept of “clean coal” as an economic savior.

Several of the fifty-two (and counting) Executive Orders signed by President Trump directly bolster these anti-environment energy goals. He’s called for a review of the Waters of the United States Rule and other “existing regulations that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources and appropriately suspend, revise, or rescind those that unduly burden the development of domestic energy resources beyond the degree necessary to protect the public interest or otherwise comply with the law.” He also ordered a contentious review of a selection of national monuments designated under the Antiquities Act, and despite public and Tribal opposition, new reports indicate that Trump will request drastic reductions to Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Gold Butte national monuments, which could open up previously protected lands for resource extraction and other disruptive activities.

That’s all to say – none of what I’m about to write should shock anyone, but it’s still important to understand what’s on Interior’s docket for the next five years. So, for those who don’t have the time or inclination to wallow through fifty pages of government muck, here’s a breakdown of the most cringe-worthy additions and glaring omissions in the leaked draft when compared to the 2014-2018 Strategic Plan.

Renewable energy is barely mentioned

One of the most notable aspects of the 2018-2022 Strategic Plan is what it doesn’t include, beginning with any tangible commitment to an emphasis on renewable energy. The previous plan outlines an entire strategy to “develop renewable energy potential” as a pathway to “reducing our dependence on foreign oil and climate changing greenhouse gas emissions.” In the leaked plan, the word “solar” pops up once, “wind” twice; hydropower is the only renewable that gets real treatment. You know what does show up, however? Coal, a favorite Trump campaign trail battle cry – of course, never mind the fact that natural gas, not government regulation, has greatly diminished its importance in the domestic energy scheme.

“Drill, Baby, Drill” is the new battle cry

Speaking of resource extraction, not since the glory days of J.R. Ewing has a man been so obsessed with oil. President Trump’s drive toward “energy dominance” is largely centered on expediting drilling permits, increasing public land leases (see: current national monuments debacle), and opening up previously protected lands and offshore holdings for those activities. There’s even a casual name-drop in the draft for the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, a key component of the renewed controversy over whether or not a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should be opened for exploratory studies and eventually, drilling – even though earlier studies weren’t able to assert any real extraction potential. Here, the call is to “ensure that the public lands are managed in accordance with the intent of Congress,” which sounds suspiciously like the monument review directive given to Secretary Zinke back in April.

Yes, the border wall makes an appearance

One of the six main “missions” of the plan is listed as “protecting our people and the border.” There is mention of preparing for threats from wildfires and natural disasters, as well as the role of law enforcement offers on public lands, but this all seems perfunctory window dressing to hide the mission’s true intent. While the plan doesn’t specifically scream out, “BUILD THAT WALL,” it does make the obvious statement that “the DOI has a considerable amount of land that borders Mexico” and asserts that “the country is presently emphasizing securing our southern border with Mexico.” We all know exactly what that means.

The call for diversifying outdoor spaces is unheeded

The previous plan includes an entire mission outline for “engaging the next generation.” This segment of the document opens with a statement from then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell: “For the health of our economy and our public lands, it’s critical that we work now to establish meaningful and deep connections between young people – from every background and every community – and the great outdoors.” At the end of President Obama’s tenure, he released a memorandum Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in Our National Parks, National Forests, and Other Public Lands and Waters. Judging from the new plan’s complete vacuum on this topic, the Interior Department could seemingly care less about continuing this push toward a more equitable outdoors.

And of course, climate change doesn’t exist

Under Secretary Jewell, the previous plan not only mentioned climate change, but actually considered it imperative to the core of Interior’s mission on all fronts – there is an entire page devoted to how it affects every aspect of their work, from watershed management to energy development. The current administration literally scrubbed WhiteHouse.gov of any trace of this when they took over, and the same goes here – there is zero mention of climate change on any of the draft’s fifty pages. Considering he once dubbed climate change a “Chinese hoax,” the writing was already on the wall when President Trump announced he was pulling the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord. Fun fact: with Nicaragua’s recent entry, we are currently the only country, along with Syria, to reject the agreement.

Photo by David Kingham

 

 

Showing 4 comments
  • jim
    Reply

    I hope the wilderness and fed lands can withstand the assault. I am old enough to remember james watt and the reagan years. it took decades to recover from that

  • Ric Walters
    Reply

    The shame of it all is that Trump’s predecessor didn’t really give a rat’s ass about the outdoors. Everything he passed or ordered was to play to the radical left and his anti-energy cabal. Zinke and Trump are the exact opposite reaction. Not defending or supporting them, just acknowledging the facts.

    Wat we need is something between the radical left or right.

  • Suzie Dods
    Reply

    I tried a different tack yesterday, writing directly to Zinke and voicing my extreme displeasure over the direction he has taken. I forgot about the “DIversity and Inclusion “aspect.
    Fight on and thanks for the recap.

  • Grammer Police
    Reply

    The expression is “seemingly could not care less.” When you say someone could care less, your meaning is not very clear. Do they care a lot about the subject and therefore could care less? It’s unknowable.

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