New “Drill Everywhere” bill proposes to sell out our public lands and waters

A new bill would incentivize oil and gas development on public lands.

 

Mason Cummings/TWS

 

The House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will hold a hearing on the “SECURE Act,” with mark-up by the full House Committee on Natural Resources scheduled for Wednesday.

Why are we calling it the “Drill Everywhere” bill?

The SECURE ACT, AKA the “Drill Everywhere” bill, would open our public lands to even more development by the fossil fuel industry—development that would be exempt from environmental impact analysis and even input from the public.

H.R. 4239, introduced by Reps. Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) and Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and co-sponsored by Reps. Henry Cuellar and Vicente González (D-Texas), will make it easier to drill next to our national parks and in the backyards of tens of thousands of landowners by shifting permitting responsibilities to states or eliminating them altogether.

It would also open places like the Gulf Coast and the Arctic up to drilling, with few regulations and protections.

We already know the outcome of opening up our waters and coastal communities to drilling with lax oversight. We’re still trying to understand and deal with the terrible impacts of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  And Gulf of Mexico communities and wildlife are still trying to recover from the economic and environmental fallout from that spill.

The Arctic is a wilder, more pristine, and more remote habitat than the Gulf, and drilling there poses even more risks to animals and ecosystems.

What exactly does this bill propose to do?

The “Drill Everywhere” bill authorizes states to issue and enforce oil and gas drilling plans and permits on public lands and waters, essentially handing control of America’s natural legacy to a handful of states and private interests. It obstructs the public’s right to participate in the management of public lands and waters, while eliminating science-based evaluation of potential harms to the environment and public health concerns from the discussion.

Specifically, it would:

  • Give states exclusive authority to issue and enforce drilling plans, including for drilling and well permits, on federal lands.
  • Prioritize fracking and drilling for oil and gas over all other uses of public lands.
  • Make it easier for the fossil fuel industry to secure leases to drill on public land.
  • Refuse to enforce federal regulations on fracking on public lands. 
  • Eliminate public involvement and other guidance to ensure transparency during the oil and gas permitting process.
  • Eliminate the presidential authority to establish marine national monuments, established in 1906 under the Antiquities Act and used by both Republican and Democratic Presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama.
  • Nullify commonsense Arctic exploratory drilling safety protections.
  • Create incentives to drill in sensitive areas, including in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

Why was it created?

This bill attempts to fix a problem that just doesn’t exist—the idea that oil and gas companies need more access to public lands. In reality, the fossil fuel industry already has access to an overabundance of public lands. And, as of 2016, only 47 percent of the public lands acres under lease to the oil and gas industry are in production, in part because Interior Department policies allow companies to sit on these lands nearly indefinitely.

So why was it written?

This bill seems to be a ploy by a few extreme members of Congress to prop up the Trump administration’s misguided efforts to give away as much as it can to special interests.

The “Drill Everywhere” bill aligns perfectly with the Trump administration’s “American energy dominance goals,” outlined in the Department of Interior’s five-year strategic plan, which was leaked last month. The plan—which doesn’t mention climate change once—aims to achieve so-called “energy dominance” through the exploitation of the supposed “vast amounts” of untapped energy reserves on public lands. It proposes to auction off millions of acres of America’s public lands and waters, including some national monuments and relatively pristine coastal regions. The only beneficiaries of a public lands auction would be the fossil fuel industry.

The “Drill Everywhere” bill also ties in with President Trump’s executive order from March calling for a new era of “energy independence” with dramatic reductions in regulations— a direction praised by the fossil fuel industry.

This is the wrong direction for our country to take.

This Act comes the same week other attacks on public lands and waters are happening, targeting sites across the country like at Minnesota’s Boundary Waters or Bear’s Ears National Monument. Americans highly value their public lands as places they take their families to hike, explore, fish, camp, and spend vacations, and they don’t want to see them destroyed by greedy special interests and their pals in Congress and the White House.

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