Grijalva Presses Zinke to Explain How “Energy Dominance” Will Be Implemented Given Clear Conflicts With Existing Laws

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke this morning pressing him to explain how “energy dominance” – the administration’s name for its vision of heavy corporate favoritism on energy and environmental issues – can be turned into realistic policy given the requirements of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) to manage public lands “on the basis of multiple use and sustained yield.” The letter comes as Zinke is expected today to issue a secretarial order instructing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to expedite the oil and gas permitting process on public lands.

The full letter is available at http://bit.ly/2tukeWZ.

Administration rhetoric in recent weeks has clearly conflicted with FLPMA, especially in its emphasis on allowing markets rather than environmental law to dictate where oil and gas drilling will occur on public lands. As the letter states in part:

It [. . .] appears that the Department [of the Interior] is inappropriately interpreting “multiple use” to mean that energy development should be allowed on all lands. The courts strongly disagree, and have very clearly interpreted FLPMA to recognize that, “The Act does not mandate that every use be accommodated on every piece of land,” and, “It is past doubt that the principle of multiple use does not require BLM to prioritize development over other uses.” One ruling speaks even more clearly to the issue at hand: “If all the competing demands reflected in FLPMA were focused on one particular piece of public land, in has placed many instances only one set of demands could be satisfied. A parcel of land cannot both be preserved in its natural character and mined.”

The letter comes as Zinke continues to misstate President Obama’s energy policies and overpromise what “energy dominance” can achieve in the face of low oil prices – claims Grijalva comprehensively debunked last week. As Grijalva pointed out in a recent press release, there are already thousands of wells permitted on public land that private companies refuse to develop, with the Department of the Interior recently testifying that companies now hold 7,950 approved drilling permits they haven’t used, and the number of permits waiting to be processed is the smallest it has been in at least twelve years.

Grijalva asks Zinke to explain not only how “energy dominance” will be implemented in practice but whether Zinke and his staff agree with decades of legal precedent on FLPMA and sustainable use of public lands.

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