Another Roll-Back That the Oil and Gas Industry Hoped You Wouldn’t Notice
With the White House watching its back, the unrelenting extraction interests are continuing to push to remove any protective regulation on public lands–this time it’s our national forests. On September 1, the US Forest Service published in the Federal Register a Proposed Rule that will make it easier for private companies to drill for oil and gas on our national forest systems and make it more difficult for the agency to stop any harmful projects.
Our forests are a national treasure. By absorbing carbon, releasing clean water and providing refuge and connected habitat for wildlife, our national forest system has never been more important. Forests are essential for wildlife and healthy climate. In this rule, the Forest Service would give away its right to serve as a check on leasing for those places that need protections. It will be more difficult for the Forest Service employees to do their work and protect the land from harmful lease sales. Leasing decisions would no longer be required to have the necessary environmental review. There would no longer be the criteria of environmental considerations to approve leasing plans.
In contrast, the proposed rule gives excessive leeway to companies that don’t follow Forest Service laws. Oil and gas developers would have unregulated discretion to extend compliance deadlines if they cannot comply with operating standards. Currently, compliance deadlines can only be extended if the company cannot meet them due to factors out of their control. Furthermore, this rule would remove the explicit confirmation of the agency’s consent as a standard step in the leasing process. This will weaken that the Forest Service’s ability to protect public land from development and degradation.
In this rule, the public will be cut out of the process that decides whether and which lands will be opened to oil and gas drilling. Public review of oil and gas proposals have historically been one of the checks to ensure protections of our public lands. Yet this rule removes the requirements that a Forest Service office gives public notice of the decision to approve a Surface Use Plan of Operations, the specific plan for development. The health of our national forests are key to confronting the climate and extinction crises and it is not time to abandon public input.
PEER is teaming up with other groups, such as The Wilderness Society and the Nevada Oil and Gas Conservation Group Coalition, to fight this rule. We are committed to doing everything in our power to stop it from moving forward. There is too much at stake. Drilling pads and access roads should not replace our woods.
Check out this map of the west to see how forests near you would be impacted.
If you would like to comment on the proposed rule, follow this link to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, you can enter 0596-AD33, which is the RIN for this proposed rulemaking. You may submit a comment by clicking on the box on the right side of the screen: “Comment Now!” Thanks for adding your voice!