Geoscience Policy Monthly Review
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Secretary Zinke recommends reduction of Bears Ears
June 12, 2017
An interim report by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke released on June 12 provides preliminary recommendations regarding the review of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. In the report, Secretary Zinke calls for a reduction of the 1.35-million-acre site. Secretary Zinke will release a final report on August 24 with details specifying the amount by which he suggests reducing the boundaries of Bears Ears, along with additional recommendations for the other 26 monuments under review by the Department of the Interior (DOI).
Following an executive order from President Donald Trump, DOI is conducting a review of certain national monuments created or expanded since 1996 that cover over 100,000 acres or may have been designated without adequate public outreach..
Bears Ears National Monument was designated by President Barack Obama during the final weeks of his presidency, in large part due to its outstanding vertebrate fossil resources. Bears Ears contains sedimentary units from the middle Triassic to early Jurassic that are rife with fossils, making it a hotspot for paleontological research. Additionally, the land holds deep cultural significance for many Native American Tribes, and the area contains numerous archaeological sites and other relics of the Ancestral Pueblo people.
The DOI’s recommendations for Bears Ears are strongly supported by House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT-1) as well as several other Utah lawmakers. Representative Bishop agrees with Secretary Zinke’s recommendation that the lands removed from the Bears Ears Monument should be redesignated as Conservation or Recreational Areas. The National Monument status of Bears Ears prevents the creation of new mines or fossil fuel development on the land, while the Conservation or Recreational Area designations do not.
Sources: Department of the Interior
BLM postpones compliance deadlines for methane emissions
June 15, 2017
On June 15, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) posted a notice in the Federal Register indefinitely postponing certain compliance dates within the Methane Waste Prevention Rule. Originally published on November 18, 2016, the Methane Waste Prevention Rule aims to reduce the loss of natural gas that occurs during oil and gas production operations on Federal and Indian lands.
The Rule lays out new requirements that operators capture a certain percentage of the gas they produce, and implement leak detection and repair (LDAR) programs. BLM is postponing next year’s compliance dates based on pending litigation and written requests from several industry groups and states to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in which they indicate that energy companies will face substantial operating costs in order to comply with the Rule by the January 17, 2018, deadline.
This postponement comes on the heels of a failed attempt to repeal the Rule under the Congressional Review Act in May. It also closely follows the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed two-year hold on their proposed rule to ensure oil and gas wells are in compliance with the Clean Air Act.
Provisions of the Rule that went into effect on January 17, 2017, have not been rescinded, including a requirement that operators submit a waste minimization plan with their drilling applications.
At the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources budget hearing for the Department of the Interior (DOI) on June 20, Secretary Zinke stated his intent to rewrite the BLM rule entirely.
Sources: E&E News, Federal Register, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Bureau of Land Management