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article imageOil and gas permits in national forests just got easier to get

By Karen Graham     Sep 1, 2020 in Politics
The Trump administration has released its plan to make it easier for companies to drill for oil and gas on U.S. Forest Service lands. The proposed rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday.
The U.S. Forest Service, an arm of the Department of Agriculture that oversees 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands, announced the proposal on Monday. The proposal would make the process of getting permits to drill on federal lands much easier than it is today, if it is approved.
The new proposal was written to make the Forest Services rules more in line with those mandated by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for the management of oil and gas drilling on public land.And this would also align with President Donald Trump's desire to increase the extraction of fossil fuels on publicly owned land and water.
The proposed changes in the permitting process for leasing and drilling are supposed to make it more streamlined and efficient, reducing what the Forest Service calls "redundant" processes, according to Reuters.
“This proposal would basically make the Forest Service a rubber stamp for the fossil fuel industry,” said Michael Saul, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.
The USDA memo issued on Friday would change what once was a national treasure - our national forests...
The USDA memo issued on Friday would change what once was a national treasure - our national forests.
USDA Forest Service
There are currently 5,490 Federal oil and gas leases covering about 4.2 million acres (about 2 percent) of National Forest System lands. Approximately 2,700 of these leases cover 1.6 million acres across 39 national forests and grasslands. There are 3,165 wells producing oil or natural gas operating on these leases.
The proposed rule can be found HERE in the Federal Register. Comments concerning this proposed rule, the associated information collection, and/or the EA must be received by November 2, 2020.
The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) believes the proposed rule would cut the public out of the process used to decide whether and which lands will be opened to oil and gas drilling. And allowing this rule to go through would also weaken the traditional role played by the Forest Service in protecting public lands.
File photo: Bison near a hot spring in Yellowstone.
File photo: Bison near a hot spring in Yellowstone.
Daniel Mayer (CC BY-SA 3.0)
“By accelerating new drilling in national forests, the Trump administration is once again taking steps that will worsen the climate crisis and hurt public health by further polluting our air and water,” said Sharon Buccino, senior director of lands for the Nature Program at NRDC.
“Tens of millions of people use and enjoy the national forests each year for a wide range of purposes. This rule would sideline their voices in favor of the fossil fuel industry and more drilling that the public doesn’t want, and that the climate can’t afford.”
Folks may remember that in June this year, Digital Journal reported that U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue issued a memorandum to the U.S. Forest Service, basically a “blueprint for reforms” he wanted expedited.
Perdue's memo wanted the Forest Service to refocus on using the nation's 193 million acres of forests, grasslands, and wilderness areas as a base for producing products and services while providing relief from "burdensome regulations." In short, the forest service was directed to produce energy on national forest lands while providing “active management” to rural communities.
More about m oil and gas drilling, National Forests, Trump administration, us forest service, fossil fuel production
 
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