Release: Proposed Legislation Shuns Overwhelming National Support for National Parks, Puts Iconic American Places in Jeopardy
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Mere weeks after the American people united in support of our national parks during the federal government shutdown, the U.S. House of Representatives is voting on legislation that would dismantle common sense oil and gas leasing reforms that help protect lands of high recreational and ecological value – including national parks – from uncontrolled drilling.
Two bills scheduled for a vote on the House floor this week – H.R. 1965 and H.R. 2728 – could permanently damage national parks by stripping the federal government of its ability to effectively oversee the production of oil and gas on federal lands and cutting stakeholders such as tourism and recreation businesses out of decisions on public lands in their back yards. If these bills are enacted, millions of visitors to our iconic national treasures across the western United States could see fracking wells built right up to park boundaries, leaving their once in a lifetime experiences marred by air and water pollution, and the industrialization of park landscapes.
“It’s a shame that these attacks come so soon after the national upwelling of support for our national parks,” said Ellis Richard, founder of Park Rangers for Our Lands, a group of former National Park Service rangers committed to the protection of national parks and public lands, “Dismantling oil and gas reforms which ensure both protection of our parks and encourage responsible development is nothing short of reckless.”
H.R. 1965 would disassemble the framework for Master Leasing Plans (MLPs), a tool used by the BLM to effectively deal with leasing decisions on lands with high ecological and recreational values by encouraging development in areas of least conflict and ensuring that oil and gas drilling is done responsibly. The bill would establish large fees for anyone appealing a leasing decision, including tourism and recreation businesses that depend on public lands for their livelihood. Additionally, the bill mandates arbitrary and unrealistic permit approval deadlines and leasing quotas. These regulatory rollbacks come at a time when gas and oil production in the U.S. are at record highs, and gas prices are dropping.
Currently, the BLM allows leasing on the borders of several national parks such as Chaco Cultural National Historic Park in New Mexico; Dinosaur National Monument, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and Mesa Verde in Colorado; and Arches and Canyonlands in Utah. (Maps showing the allowable oil and gas leasing on the borders of national parks can be viewed at Park Rangers for Our Lands.
H.R. 2728 would also prevent the BLM from enforcing its rules to ensure the safe production of oil and gas via hydraulic fracturing on BLM lands, rules it has engaged with millions of Americans to develop. Passage of the law would violate the fundamental principle of federal land ownership – that they should be protected for the benefit of all Americans at equivalent levels throughout the country.
“The common sense rules targeted by these bills help ensure that as we tap America’s abundant oil and gas reserves, we protect our national parks and the economies of countless gateway communities that depend on recreation and tourism,” said Nick Lund, Oil and Gas Campaign Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. “It’s disappointing to see Congress so clearly ignoring the overwhelming desire of the American public to protect our national parks.”
For more information on the impact of fracking on national parks, see National Parks and Hydraulic Fracturing.