[MUST BE COMPLETELY REWRITTEN]
I strongly condemn our current Administration's attempt to steadily undoing Obama-era environmental protections that have long been needed. I support reinstating these protections and strengthening them. The main environmental issues that I feel need to be immediately reinstated:
CLEAN WATER RULE
The Environmental Protection Agency is rescinding the 2015 Clean Water Rule. This rule — particularly important in the arid West — mandates, for example, protecting tributaries that connect to navigable waterways and adjoining wetlands, even if they flow only part of the year.
The EPA also plans to eliminate protection of many wetlands and streams by narrowing the definition of a “navigable water.”
BLOWOUT PREVENTION RULE
In April, Trump ordered a reconsideration of a 2016 rule designed to prevent the kind of engineering failures that led to the catastrophic 2010 BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. That explosion killed 11 workers and inundated our fragile coast and the deep sea with the largest marine oil spill ever seen, pummeling the Gulf’s seafood industry.
Obama withdrew large sections of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans from drilling to protect marine habitats. In an April executive order, Trump reversed the withdrawals and ordered annual lease sales in those areas, including in the Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea, Cook Inlet, Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic.
FOSSIL FUEL ROYALTIES RULE
In August, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke repealed a 2016 Obama rule designed to ensure that taxpayers get a fair return on oil, gas and coal. The Obama administration estimated the rule would have increased the royalties that fossil fuel industries pay to mine and drill federal lands and waters by about $80 million a year. The rule was meant to eliminate a loophole that allows companies to sell to affiliated companies that then export and re-sell the minerals at higher prices, reducing royalties.
Trump slashed two national monuments in southern Utah and is considering changes to other monuments in the West. Under Trump’s boundaries, Bears Ears becomes two separate management units: Indian Creek and Shash Jáa. The two together are just 15 percent of the footprint protected by President Barack Obama in 2016. The new Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is about half its original size. Countless archaeological, paleontological, cultural and scenic treasures are left out of Trump’s new boundaries. Bears Ears and Escalante supporters are suing to block this unprecedented action.
At the Trump administration’s urging, Congress in December opened parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. This was an enormous loss for the Gwich’in, a Native Alaskan people, and environmental groups, which had successfully protected the refuge from drilling for decades. Drilling in the refuge is part of a broader policy of the administration to increase oil production in Alaska and in Western public lands in general. In December, the administration offered the largest lease sale ever in the National Petroleum Reserve, Alaska. But companies bid on a tiny fraction of land available — only seven of the 900 tracts offered.
BLM METHANE RULE
In 2016, this Bureau of Land Management implemented a rule limiting how much methane can be released from some 96,000 oil and gas wells on federal and tribal lands. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and the 2016 rule’s goal was to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change, smog and health problems, as well as to increase royalties. The BLM in December suspended it until 2019, and Zinke plans to rewrite it.
EPA METHANE RULE
The EPA also passed a rule in 2016 designed to limit methane emissions, but from new and modified oil and gas wells, compressor stations, pneumatic pumps and similar equipment. It was a key part of the previous administration's climate change agenda; the administration projected that industry’s costs would be partially offset by revenues from recovering and selling more natural gas. Scott Pruitt has sought to prevent the rule from going into effect.
Trump revoked Obama administration policies that had blocked or postponed construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. Environmentalists had long objected to Keystone XL because the heavy tar sands crude oil that it carries has a bigger greenhouse gas footprint than conventional crude oil. We have already seen oil spills from these new pipelines exceeding 500,000 gallons of crude in rivers and on land.
NATIONAL PARKS MANAGEMENT
The National Park Service in August rescinded a sweeping December 2016 policy instructing managers to use an adaptive approach to decision-making, taking into account uncertainties such as climate change impacts, and erring on the side of caution to protect natural and cultural resources. The policy also committed to address worker harassment. Now, the Park Service says revoking the order avoids confusion while Zinke establishes his own vision for the parks.
Also in August, the agency ended a six-year policy that allowed parks to ban the sale of disposable water bottles to decrease waste and greenhouse gas pollution.
The EPA has taken steps to repeal the Clean Power Plan, the Obama-era regulation intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 32 percent by 2030 compared to 2005. The Supreme Court had already stayed the rule, pending court review. The Trump administration asked the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals not to rule in the case and in August the court agreed to suspend its review.
The Obama Administration wanted the federal coal-mining program to better reflect its costs to taxpayers and the planet. In 2016, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell placed a three-year moratorium on new coal leases on federal land while reviewing the program, which produces about 40 percent of the coal burned in the U.S. for electricity.
This March, Zinke cancelled both the moratorium and review. Given declining demand for coal, though, there’s been no rush for new leases.