Headlamp – “Interior should not be an adversary. We should be a partner,” according to Zinke.

Partners not Adversaries. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says his agency should be a partner with oil and gas companies that seek to drill on public land and that long regulatory reviews with an uncertain outcome are “un-American.” Speaking Tuesday to a major energy-industry conference, Zinke described the Trump administration’s efforts to increase offshore drilling, reduce regulations, and streamline inspections of oil and gas operators. “Interior should not be in the business of being an adversary. We should be in the business of being a partner,” Zinke said to a receptive audience that included leaders of energy companies and oil-producing countries. Zinke said the government should shorten the permitting process for energy infrastructure — it shouldn’t take longer than two years. “If you ask an investor to continuously put money on a project that is uncertain because the permit process has too much uncertainty, ambiguity, (it) is quite frankly un-American,” he said. The Interior Department manages 500,000 million acres — one-fifth of the U.S. land mass — as well as the lease of offshore areas for oil drilling. One-fifth of U.S. oil production takes place on land or water that the Interior Department leases to private energy companies.

Assembly meeting in Utqiaġvik Tuesday. The Interior Department’s second-in-command, Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt addressed the mayor and the assembly members at the Barrow High School Auditorium. “We’re here today to begin a conversation with you because we want to have you collaboratively and collectively involved with us as we go forward with our new job,” Bernhardt said. That new job is managing the oil and gas leasing program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is within the North Slope Borough boundaries. “We want to hear your voice, we want to understand your issues, we have an opportunity to try to accommodate those issues that are of concern to you within our authority,” Bernhardt said. Assembly members had the chance to comment and ask questions. North Slope Borough Mayor Harry K. Brower Jr. thanked the Deputy Secretary for coming. He then went on to say that oral communication is one thing, but he wants to start seeing plans in writing. “You know, I first thing I wrote down was, when do we start reading the information in black and white. In written materials. That’s something of importance,” Brower said. Bernhardt responded that once the scoping process begins, more of those materials will become available. He also said he expects that process to kick off in the next few weeks. After the meeting, Bernhardt was also asked why three critical whaling areas were included in the initial draft of the Trump Administration’s plan for offshore leasing. Local stakeholders have identified those areas for exclusion in years past. “We started with what I would consider a zero baseline,” Bernhardt said. “Let’s presume we’re starting the dialogue fresh. The process will take the same amount of time either way, and we’ll get comments and decide whether it was right-sized nation-wide or not. So that’s where we’re at.” The Deputy Secretary said he will also be visiting Fairbanks and Nome on this trip.

From today’s Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy:

ZINKE’S PLAN TO USE ENERGY FUNDS FOR PARK REPAIRS GETS BIPARTISAN SUPPORT IN CONGRESS: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke partnered Wednesday with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to create a fund to pay for the billions of dollars of repairs and maintenance needed in national parks and wildlife refuges.

The fund, which would hold up to $18 billion, would be paid for by new leases for energy development on onshore and offshore federal lands. It also would finance schools under the Bureau of Indian Education. The backers: Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Angus King, I-Maine, sponsored legislation creating the fund on the Senate side. Additional co-sponsors include Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Steve Daines, R-Mont., Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C.Reps. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., announced a companion bill in the House.

Fix it: The Interior Department has a $16 billion maintenance backlog, the agency says. Of that amount, the National Park Service has the largest share, $11.6 billion in 2017.

What about that park fee hike? Interior’s proposal is already more popular than other ideas the agency has offered to repair national parks.

Last year, the National Park Service proposed to more than double visitor fees for 17 popular national parks to pay for the repairs and upkeep. The plan has been widely panned.

Not dead yet: A National Park Service official told Josh that the agency is reviewing public comments about the fee hikes and expects to “complete that process in the coming weeks.”


First Reads:

Interior Department officials visit North Slope to talk ANWR
Alaska Public Media, Ravenna Koenig, March 7, 2018

Zinke says Interior should be a partner with oil companies
The Philadelphia Tribune, David Koenig, March 6, 2018