Washington, D.C. Oct. 16, 2018 – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, jointly submitted formal comments yesterday afternoon on two U.S. Forest Service Advanced Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) in which they highlighted the proposals’ overwhelming industry favoritism and potential improper weakening of environmental standards. Both proposals – one on mining “locatable minerals” such as gold, silver, and copper, and the other on oil and gas drilling– were published on Sept. 13.
Their full comments are available at http://bit.ly/2Ckofni.
Both rulemaking proposals are consistent with Trump administration policies such as Executive Order 13873, which holds that environmental standards are a “burden” to extractive industries. Grijalva and Lowenthal write at one point that provisions of the ANPRs “suggest the Forest Service is initiating the rulemaking process with a predetermined decision to relax the limited environmental safeguards and public input requirements that currently exist[.]”
Further, the lawmakers write, the oil and gas ANPR suggests faster permitting with weaker environmental oversight will soon become the norm:
It is therefore troubling that the oil and gas ANPR states that it seeks to update, clarify, and streamline the process used by the Forest Service for regulating oil and gas operations. While there is nothing wrong with these goals by themselves, they should not be used to provide cover simply to “reduce burdens” on oil and gas development, which is a direction in Executive Order 13873.
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The lawmakers emphasize that longstanding land management laws cannot and should not be circumvented in any deregulation push. They point out that national forests have been managed for nearly 60 years under the principle of “multiple use and sustained yield,” a philosophy that allows for a mixture of sustainable activities within our forests. That philosophy is threatened by the Trump administration’s constant push for more drilling and mining on America’s public lands.
The lawmakers point out that the ANPRs focus on inappropriate priorities, such as trying to increase “confidence” for private investors interested in bankrolling mining projects. They write, “It is not the job of the Forest Service to ‘enhance operators’ interest’ in mining or provide more confidence to investors; it is the agency’s job to provide stewardship over public forests and manage resources for multiple-use and sustained yield.”
The public comment period closed on Oct. 15.