Bears Ears Open for Drilling

Bears Ears 2
Bears Ears, Cedar Mesa. Public Domain, US Bureau of Land Management

When Donald Trump attempted to drastically shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments late last year, he didn’t just gut the boundaries of the popular monuments. He set a date after which lands cut from the monuments (absent other restrictions) are open to new mining and fossil fuel drilling.

That date was February 2, 2018, and Bears Ears and Grand Staircase are now open for business — the extraction business. There are some restrictions in limited areas that prohibit mining and drilling, like wilderness study areas and the Valley of the Gods Area of Critical Environmental Concern in the areas cut from the original Bears Ears National Monument, but this doesn’t mean the entirety of the monuments are safe from destructive energy extraction.
Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Open for Business, Grand Canyon Trust, February 7,
2018 by Tim Peterson, Utah Wildlands Program Director

May this be true:

A controversial decision weeks earlier by President Donald Trump had shrunk the size of two national monuments — known as Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante — by hundreds of thousands of acres, enraging environmentalists and American Indian groups who feared a stampede of mine and oil wildcatters would rush in and destroy the area’s sandstone vistas, historic rock carvings and artifacts. And yet, five days in, not only has there been no stampede, but no one has shown up at all.

The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining says it hasn’t received a single permit application for plots in the areas. That may not ease the angst in the activist community any but it does highlight a couple of key elements to the dispute: While the remote region contains several minerals as well as oil and gas, the logistics of moving material in and out are tricky, and the only resource that has the real potential of luring explorers is uranium. But uranium prices are depressed, having plunged more than 80 percent since 2007 and squelched interest in opening new mines.

All of which means that, for now at least, the Trump administration’s scaling back of the monuments feels more like a symbolic political statement than anything else.
Bears Ears Is Open for Mining But No One Bothered to Show Up, Bloomberg, February 7, 2018 by Joe Deaux

Energy and Telecomm Industries Get a Break, Again

Eagle
American Bald Eagle (cc) 2016 by Lee Jay Fingersh / NREL

The Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks have sparked a lot of outrage. But one recent action by the Interior Department drew unprecedented protest from a bipartisan group of top officials who go all the way back to the Nixon administration: a new legal opinion that attempts to legalize the unintentional killing of most migratory birds.

Under the new interpretation, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act forbids only intentional killing – such as hunting or killing birds to get their feathers – without a permit. The administration will no longer apply the act to industries that inadvertently kill a lot of birds through oil drilling, wind power and communications towers. Critics fear that these industries might now end the bird-friendly practices that save large numbers of birds.
Interior Cancels Decades-Old Protections for Migratory Birds, High Country News, January 26, 2018, by Elizabeth Shogren

Ursula Le Guin: A Voice that Will Be Missed

Ursula
{cc} 2008 by Gorthian

Right before she died, I was reading her new book, No Time to Spare, a collection of trenchant, funny, lyrical essays about everything from cats to the nature of belief, to the overuse of the word “fuck”, to the fact that old age is indeed for sissies – and talking to her in my head. What if, I was saying – what if I write a piece about The Left Hand of Darkness, published by you in 1969? What if I say it’s a book to which time has now caught up?
Ursula K Le Guin, by Margaret Atwood, The Guardian, January 24, 2017

A Chilly Start to 2018

Ice Branch

2018 started out on a cold note for people living in the Midwest and Eastern United States. Those of us in the West have experienced strange warm weather and a lack of moisture. Along the West Coast many are now dealing with the aftermath of strong, wet storms that have caused massive landslides in the fire-damaged areas.

In particular my area has reclaimed its spot on the National Drought Monitor Map.  For the entire month of December I measured 0.24 inches of moisture in my backyard. We may get some rain later today. That would be most welcome. Of course, now that it is January, we should be getting snow not rain.

 

How Much Land Did He Take?

Bears_Ears
(cc) Mike McGlew Bears Ears National Monument, Utah

If fossil fuels are the Holy Grail for the Trump administration—and his emphasis on “energy dominance” suggests they are—there is far more at stake than the 2 million acres the president rescinded from Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante’s monument designations. More than 120 million acres of protected land—larger than the state of California—are situated over rich reserves of oil, coal, and gas … Now We Finally Know How Much Federal Land Could Be at Stake in Trump’s Rush for More Drilling, Mother Jones, December 5, 2017 by Rebecca Leber

 

Leber’s article includes an interactive map that shows:

  • Federally Protected Land
  • Coal Fields
  • Oil and Gas Fields
  • Oil and Gas Basins

for the entire United States. It’s quite an amazing map that can be zoomed into the local level. It would not surprise me if the reduction of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante is just the first of many more attempts to grab undeveloped, protected lands with fossil fuel “resources.”

If you wish to make a donation to support the litigation that has already begun, please consider these worthy groups:

 

How NOT to Write a Tax Bill

TaxBill
From Senator Markey via Twitter

 

The recent tax bill passed by the US Senate is just under 500 pages long. Many of the changes are handwritten and not legible. The senators were given the draft a few hours before voting.

This is not the way to pass legislation that meets the needs of the people of the United States. This is the way to payoff campaign donors.