On Friday, December 29, while Americans were planning New Year’s events for their families, the Trump administration was dismantling protections for the nation’s federal and native lands previously put into play by the Obama team.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which falls under the Department of the Interior, issued a “final rule” quashing constraints and regulations that oversaw how oil and natural gas were extracted by fracking on federal lands.
The 2015 guidelines zeroed in on establishing fracking guidelines to ensure drilling was done with accountability. It called upon fracking companies to:
- Be transparent about the fracking fluid chemicals used in their formulas.
- Adhere to federal safety rules about how fracking wells are fabricated.
- Comply with rules to ensure that any possibility of water contamination would be decreased.
To be granted the right to drill, companies were required to present plans and designs which outlined their sources of water, while demonstrating that their proposed structure could tolerate the demands of the fracking process. This included being encased by “adequate cement,” in order to protect water sources depended on by Native tribes and local states.
Within the list of requirements to get a drilling permit, was the challenge to the “Trade Secret” justification, an ongoing excuse for not revealing chemicals used in order to protect formulas.
The harm these chemicals and pollutants cause goes against recent health research, which concluded that pollutants released during fracking processes pose a direct health risk to infants and children. With these health impairments – learning disabilities, ADHD, dyslexia, sensory deficits, mental retardation, and autism spectrum disorders – the research found that public health prevention techniques, and stronger state and national regulatory standards are needed in oil and gas development. Not weaker protections.
Yet, in March 2017, Trump pushed his agenda on American families and laid the groundwork for the December action by issuing an executive order (#13783). He called upon Ryan Zinke, his Secretary of the Interior, to review the 2015 rule (among many others) under the umbrella incentive of “promoting energy independence and economic growth.”
Zinke, known for his documented ties to fossil fuel companies, was tasked with circumventing “regulatory burdens that unnecessarily encumber energy production and prevent job creation.” Ironically, America’s “geopolitical security” was invoked, despite the fact that the Trump administration doesn’t acknowledge climate change as a key potential factor in global civil unrest.
The Obama initiatives were vehemently opposed by the natural gas and oil companies. The key reason was because the delineated safety measures would add additional dollars to their production costs. That’s why the rules were already tied up in court.
Zinke’s Interior Department has promoted the angle of American “energy dominance” to rationalize how eliminating the Obama rules would save $14 to $34 million, annually, in compliance costs.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) released a statement which included the quote, “Adding a layer of duplicative federal regulations does not improve on the success of existing state and federal regulations.”
While fossil fuel groups are pleased with this development, the environmental and health communities wasted no time in pushing back. Two groups that have been at the forefront of legal actions are the Center for Biological Diversity and EarthJustice.
Mike Freeman, a lawyer with EarthJustice, was clear in his response:
“The move today represents just another example of the Trump administration sacrificing our public lands, air and water in order to pad the bottom line of oil and gas companies.”
The Trump administration just gave away important health protections. This roll back will allow industry to expose our children to more poisonous air pollution…in yet, another nod towards industry in the war against our children’s health.
Editorial Note: The Trump administration has just revealed plans to allow drilling in all U.S. waters. This includes previously protected Arctic and Atlantic designations.