Groups sue for information on Arctic refuge lease sale
Dan Joling, Associated Press, July 31, 2019
An Alaska Native organization and three environmental groups sued the U.S. Interior Department on Wednesday, claiming its agencies withheld information regarding preparations for the sale of oil and gas leases in the massive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The lawsuit filed in Anchorage claims the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not provide public information in response to Freedom of Information Act requests.
The groups sought information on an application by a company to conduct three-dimensional seismic exploration using 90,000-pound (40,825-kilogram) vibrator trucks and mobile camps that could disturb denning polar bears.
The four plaintiffs — the Gwich’in Steering Committee, Alaska Wilderness League, Defenders of Wildlife and The Wilderness Society — object to the planned leasing later this year in the refuge in northeast Alaska.
Our take: And the cycle continues. Outside voices speaking for the people directly affected by the opportunity to develop. According to an article published last week, “A recent poll of 93 people conducted by Kaktovik’s city government found half in favor of oil development in the coastal plain, 30 percent opposed and the rest undecided.” Maybe we should allow those in the immediate vicinity to have a voice, rather than claiming to speak for them in a thinly veiled attempt to stop progress.
Trump promised offshore jobs. That’s not happening
Heather Richards, E&E News, August 1, 2019
Since 2014, 1 out of 5 jobs that existed in the Houma-Thibodaux area — the heart of the Gulf’s service industry — vanished, representing about 16,000 jobs swallowed as a result of the oil price bust that year, according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission.
Many of those job losses preceded the 2016 presidential election, but they have not returned, despite Trump administration officials making expansion of offshore drilling a key plank in federal energy policy.
Politico reported in February that the Trump administration had handed out almost 1,700 safety rule exemptions to offshore drillers. The most common exemption was for Obama-era standards for blowout preventers that were put in place following the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 10 workers in 2010. The Trump administration has since officially loosened those standards, and green groups have responded with a lawsuit.
Despite that support, the workforce of the country’s main offshore oil and gas region continues to dwindle and may not ever return to what it once was, experts say. Gulf lease sales by the federal government also have been fairly flat in recent years, with occasional exceptions. Part of the challenge is that regulations do not drive oil and gas decisions, according to analysts.
From the Daily on Energy:
REPUBLICAN SENATORS TO INTRODUCE BILL ENSHRINING EPA’S WOTUS ROLLBACK: Republican Senators Mike Braun of Indiana and Joni Ernst of Iowa are introducing legislation Thursday that would enshrine into law the Trump administration’s rollback of the Obama-era Waters of the U.S. rule.
Braun’s office confirmed to me the pending release of the bill, set for later Thursday, dubbed the “Define WOTUS Act.”
“President Trump and his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are working hard to fix this atrocious Obama-era rule. But as the Administration has repeatedly noted, it’s Congress’s job to write laws. The Define WOTUS Act will solidify and amplify the Administration’s work on WOTUS,” Braun said in a statement.
The Obama administration’s 2015 WOTUS rule expanded federal water protections to small rivers and streams to protect them from pollution. The Trump EPA’s proposed changes, announced in December, would narrow how “navigable waterways” are defined under the Clean Water Act, siding with farmers, ranchers, and developers who said the broader rule violated their property rights, forcing them to protect the streams and tributaries that flow through their land.
Our take: Carry on, senators. WOTUS was and is a terrible idea. Time to put a stake through its heart.