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Trump Plans to Aggressively Expand Offshore Drilling in Protected Areas

President Trump plans to sign an executive order today intended to aggressively expand drilling in protected waters off the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

The new EO will direct U.S. Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke to review the current offshore drilling plans, which limits most drilling to parts of the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska's Cook Inlet, and reexamine opening parts of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans to drilling. The EO will also roll back President Obama's permanent ban on drilling in the Arctic, issued in the last full month of his presidency. Zinke cautioned reporters that implementation of the EO will be "a multi-year effort," and several groups have pledged lawsuits to further slow down the process.

"Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke is dead wrong," said Greenpeace USA senior climate and energy campaigner Diana Best.

"Renewable energy already has us on the right track to energy independence, and opening new areas to offshore oil and gas drilling will lock us into decades of harmful pollution, devastating spills like the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and a fossil fuel economy with no future. Scientific consensus is that the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves—including the oil and gas off U.S. coasts—must remain undeveloped if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change."

Best added that Trump's latest executive order does not have popular support, and instead caters to "Trump's inner circle of desperate fossil fuel executives."

"Holing up at Mar-a-lago may protect Trump from an oil spill," she said, "but it will not protect him and his cabinet of one percenters from the millions of people in this country—from California to North Carolina—who will resist his disastrous policies."

Waterkeeper Alliance Executive Director Marc Yaggi agrees. "This attempt to greatly expand offshore drilling into the Arctic and Atlantic is a blatant prioritization of fossil fuel profits over the health of our climate and coastal communities," he said. "President Trump is ignoring the cries of citizens who have said offshore drilling poses too great a threat to their economies and ways of life."

For a deeper dive:

New York Times, AP, Axios, Politico, NPR, LA Times, Bloomberg, USA Today, The Hill, ThinkProgress

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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Cedar Mesa Valley of the Gods in the Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah. Bob Wick, BLM

Trump Signs Executive Order Targeting National Monuments, Could Open Up Lands for Oil and Gas Development

President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday ordering a review of the Antiquities Act and national monuments on more than 100,000 acres.

The review enables the Department of Interior to examine whether any of the monument designations have led to a "loss of jobs, reduced wages and reduced public access."

"The Antiquities Act does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water," President Donald Trump said during a brief ceremony today flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and Sec. of the Interior Ryan Zinke. He added that it was "time to end this abusive practice."

The 1.35-million acre Bears Ears National Monument in Utah is one of the first targets for review. The monument was created by President Obama last year and has sparked major controversy between Republican lawmakers and conservationists. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah's congressional delegation led by Congressmen Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz and Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee have launched a campaign to abolish national monument. More than 270 million acres of American land and waters are potentially at risk—an area two and a half times the size of California.

GOP lawmakers have accused President Obama, who designated more monuments than any other president, of abusing the Antiquities Act to protect land from fossil fuel development.

"By potentially rolling back safeguards for lands and waters that are currently protected from destructive development for generations to come, Trump is carving up this beautiful country into as many corporate giveaways for the oil and gas industry as possible," said Diana Best of Greenpeace USA. "People in this country who cannot afford the membership fee at Mar-a-Lago want safe water they can drink and public lands for their communities to enjoy."

National monument designations have protected some of the most iconic places in the country. Dozens of the nation's most treasured national parks were first protected as monuments, including Grand Teton, Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Acadia and Olympic national parks, explained the Center for Biological Diversity.

Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, emphasized that the NRDC will fight the review, and said the president is not authorized to reverse monument designations.

"These public lands belong to all of us," she said. "The U.S. holds them in trust for the benefit of this and future generations. These monuments have been deemed worthy of permanent conservation because of their unique resources and wildlife, ecological importance, and vulnerability to encroachment and destruction. President Trump and Secretary Zinke should not strip away their protection and subject them to industrial exploitation by polluters or other corporate interests."

The Center for Biological Diversity noted that more than 50 national monuments are at risk, including vast marine areas in the Pacific and Caribbean. Congress gave the president the authority to designate national monuments on federally owned land under the Antiquities Act of 1906, which was signed into law by President Teddy Roosevelt, for the express purpose of protecting important objects of historic and scientific importance.

"This is a frightening step toward dismantling the protection of some of America's most important and iconic places: our national parks and monuments," said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "Trump's tapping into the right-wing, anti-public-lands zealotry that will take us down a very dangerous path—a place where Americans no longer have control over public lands and corporations are left to mine, frack, clear-cut and bulldoze them into oblivion. It starts with Bears Ears and Grand Staircase and only gets worse from there."

National monuments are cherished by Americans for their natural beauty and cultural significance.

"There is no need for a review to demonstrate what families across the country already know first-hand—national monuments provide tangible health, natural, and economic benefits," said Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director. "Protected outdoor spaces drive the outdoor recreation economy which supports 7.6 million jobs and generates $887 billion in consumer spending each year. National monuments and public lands are vital both for the history they preserve and the future they offer.

"Contrary to the Trump administration's thinly veiled hopes," he added, "this review will reveal what studies, surveys and polls have consistently found across the country—a deep, widespread appreciation for our parks, monuments and other public lands, and a popular belief that they should continue to exist."

As thousands of people across the country and in Washington, DC are expected to join the People's Climate March on Saturday, indigenous leaders and climate activists will, as 350.org Executive Director May Boeve points out, "now have to defend our parks and monuments from Big Oil as well."

Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, put it this way. "This is another Trump action that is another act of aggression against the inherent sovereign rights of our Native Nations to protect the traditional cultural areas and sacred places of American Indian and Alaska Native people," he said.

"There are many areas in this country, outside of our reserved lands that are of vital importance to our Indigenous peoples' identity and rich cultural and spiritual history. The 1906 Antiquities Act cannot be stripped on its important historical mandates to designate national monuments to protect areas that have cultural, historical and environmental significance. The act is paramount to all the tribes in this country; for our cultural preservation now and into the future. The frontline Indigenous communities in our network see Trump's actions as a way to open up fossil fuel and extractive mineral development within these national monuments designated under the 1906 Antiquities Act. Trump's action must be stopped."

Companies are also outraged at Trump's latest executive order. "Less than 24 hours after joining with our industry to celebrate the economic power of outdoor recreation, in a hypocritical move, the Trump administration took unprecedented steps that could result in the removal of protections for treasured public lands," Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario said.

"We take this as a sign that Trump and his team prefer to cater to fossil fuel interests and state land grabs for unsustainable development, rather than preserve a vital part of our nation's heritage for future generations by protecting federal lands owned by every citizen."

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A fracking site in the Marcellus Shale region in Pennsylvania. Photo credit: EcoFlight.

Trump Administration to Kill Fracking Rule on Public Lands

The Trump administration intends to scrap and rewrite an Obama-era rule designed to make fracking on federal lands safer.

Drilling has taken place on federal lands for years, with more than 100,000 wells in existence. In 2015, the Interior Dept. issued new standards aimed at making the process safer, including stricter and higher design standards for wells and waste fluid storage facilities to mitigate risks to air, water and wildlife. Companies would also be required to publicly disclose chemicals used in fracking.

However, U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl blocked the Obama rule in June after accepting the argument from energy companies and several states that federal regulators lack congressional authority to set rules for fracking.

The Obama administration appealed the decision to the 10th Circuit, but the rule could be killed for good. The Trump administration said in court filings Wednesday it is withdrawing from the lawsuit.

Justice Dept. lawyers representing Interior and the Bureau of Land Management asked the court to "continue the oral argument and hold these appeals in abeyance pending a new rulemaking" on the issue.

"As part of this process, the Department has begun reviewing the 2015 Final Rule (and all guidance issued pursuant thereto) for consistency with the policies and priorities of the new Administration," the motion reads. "This initial review has revealed that the 2015 Final Rule does not reflect those policies and priorities."

A spokeswoman for Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke confirmed with the Associated Press that the administration intends to submit a new rule.

Neal Kirby of the Independent Petroleum Association of America praised the withdrawal of the rule, calling it "unnecessary, duplicative and would further drive away independent producers from federal lands."

"Every energy-producing area has different needs and requirements, which is why the states are far more effective at regulating hydraulic fracturing than the federal government," he said.

Many environmental advocates felt that the 2015 rule was already too lenient, but the Trump administration's latest action could be even more worrisome to fracking opponents.

"This disturbing decision highlights Trump's desire to leave our beautiful public lands utterly unprotected from oil industry exploitation," said Michael Saul, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Backing away from these modest rules is doubly dangerous given the administration's reckless plans to ramp up fracking and drilling on public lands across America."

Other environmental organizations spoke out against the announcement.

"Today's news demonstrates the degree to which Secretary Zinke and the Trump administration are in the pocket of the oil and gas industry," said Earthjustice attorney Mike Freeman.

Earthworks policy director Lauren Page said: "By moving to overturn these common-sense protections, the Trump administration is positioning itself against the disclosure of toxic chemicals, protecting clean water and preserving our public land."

Groundwater contamination is one of the biggest concerns about unconventional oil and natural gas production. While the industry maintains the safety of the process, in December the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its highly anticipated final report identifying cases of impacts on drinking water at each stage in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle.

The disposal of fracking wastewater into underground wells has also been linked to the alarming increase in seismic activity in states such as Oklahoma and Kansas.

"With [Wednesday's] decision, Trump is making it clear that he thinks we need more fracking operations contaminating our drinking water, causing earthquakes and polluting our environment, not less," Sierra Club Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign director Lena Moffitt said. "The Sierra Club will continue to defend this rule, ensuring that our publicly-owned lands remain protected from fracking and Donald Trump."

President Trump has plans to open up federal lands for more energy development. As a candidate, Trump campaigned on a promise to "unleash America's $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves."

He accused President Obama of "denying millions of Americans access to the energy wealth sitting under our feet" by restricting leasing and banning new coal extraction.

Incidentally, the actions of the current administration go against the sentiments of the majority of Americans, who are opposed to fracking and drilling of public lands, according to a new Gallup poll.

The poll, released on Tuesday, determined that 53 percent of Americans oppose fracking as a means of increasing the production of natural gas and oil in the U.S. Only 46 percent support for opening up federal lands for oil exploration, compared to 65 percent who favored it in 2014.

"Americans Tilt Toward Protecting Environment, Alternative Fuels"Gallup

The Gallup poll found that 72 percent of Americans support spending more government money on energy alternatives such as solar and wind power. About two-thirds of Americans favor more strongly enforcing federal environmental regulations and setting higher emissions standards for business and energy.

Public opposition to fracking has grown in recent years, as counties and cities across the country are passing resolutions and ordinances to ban the practice.

Even states are getting behind the action. The Maryland House of Delegates passed a milestone bill earlier this month that would ban fracking statewide.

Fracking opponents are now urging the Maryland Senate to pass the same legislation. On Thursday morning, a group of protesters‚ including including faith leaders and western Maryland residents, barred the entrance to the State House in a peaceful act of civil disobedience. Thirteen were arrested.

"As stewards of God's creation, United Methodists are opposed to hydraulic fracturing because of the serious consequences for the environment, including damage to water and geological stability," said Rev. Julie Wilson, chair for the Board of Church and Society for the Baltimore Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church. "We support a ban on fracking."

Garrett County in western Maryland is likely to be the first area targeted if fracking is allowed. The demonstrators say that fracking would threaten the area's local economy, which relies heavily on tourism and agriculture.

"Western Maryland would be targeted first by fracking, and western Marylanders overwhelmingly know that we can never allow it to take place," said Ann Bristow, Garrett County resident and member of Gov. O'Malley's Marcellus shale advisory commission.

"The more we learn about fracking, the more we know we need a ban. Our water, health and climate are far more important than short term gain for the natural gas industry. Once free of worrying about fracking in Maryland, we can all turn our attention to a renewable and sustainable future."


The former Montana congressman overturned an Obama-era policy that banned the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle in federal wildlife refuges. Photo credit: Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement /Twitter

Zinke Rides to Work on Horse for First Day in Office Then Repeals Rule Protecting Wildlife From Lead Poisoning

By Nadia Prupis

On his first full day in office Thursday, newly-confirmed Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke rode a horse to work and proceeded to repeal a rule that protected plants and animals from lead poisoning.

The former Montana congressman's order overturned a policy put into place by former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Dan Ashe on Jan. 19, before the Obama administration left office, that banned the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle in FWS wildlife refuges and other federal lands that allow hunting or fishing.

He also signed a separate order asking other agencies under his purview to come up with ways to make federal lands more accessible for recreational use, saying it "worries" him to think about hunting and fishing becoming a sport of the "land-owning elite."

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, spent lead ammunition causes poisoning in 130 species of birds and animals and hundreds of reports have been written about the dangers of lead exposure to wildlife. The center said Zinke's swift action repealing the ban came in response to pressure from the National Rifle Association, which spent $30 million on ads promoting President Trump's election.

"Switching to nontoxic ammunition should be a no-brainer to save the lives of thousands birds and other wildlife, prevent hunters and their families from being exposed to toxic lead and protect our water," said Jonathan Evans, the Center for Biological Diversity's environmental health legal director.

"It's ironic that one of the first actions by Secretary Zinke, who fancies himself a champion of hunters and anglers, leads to poisoning of game and waterfowl eaten by those same hunting families," said Evans. "It's another sad day for public health and wildlife under the Trump presidency when special interests again prevail over common-sense environmental safeguards."

Zinke's gung-ho start to his first day in office comes after environmental groups expressed outrage over his confirmation on Wednesday, describing the former congressman from Montana as a "foe of endangered species" and warning that his voting record shows he "couldn't care less about our wildlife, climate or public lands."

Indeed, Zinke has voted against endangered species protections 100 percent of the time and has taken donations from the fossil fuel industry. Ahead of the confirmation vote in February, 170 environmental organizations sent a letter to the Senate urging them to reject him.

"Zinke is another climate science-denier with ties to Big Oil who won't lift a finger for real climate action. His agenda will put communities in danger and, if the coal moratorium is lifted, would spell disaster for the climate," said May Boeve, executive director of the climate group 350.org, in response to his confirmation.

The horse was named Tonto.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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Zinke Confirmation Threatens Our Public Lands

The Senate voted today to confirm Rep. Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Department of the Interior.

His confirmation will be followed by a rally today at noon outside the Department of the Interior in Washington, DC. The rally will demonstrate people's love of the outdoors and the fierce expectation that Sec. Zinke stand firm against those seeking to undermine the new Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.

The confirmation of Rep. Zinke as Interior Secretary jeopardizes the future of our great outdoors and the people, wildlife, and economies that depend on them.

The majority of Americans want to see our public lands protected for future generations to enjoy, not sold off or plundered for the financial benefit of the few. Yet as a Congressman, Zinke repeatedly sold out to corporate polluters.

The Secretary of the Interior must stand behind our public lands and stand up for tribal sovereignty, not consider rolling back protections for places like Bears Ears National Monument. We will continue to push Secretary Zinke to defend our public lands. We will resist all efforts to dismantle, degrade, and dispose of our outdoor legacy, even as we fight to make these places more accessible and welcoming for everyone.

Republicans Move to Sell Off 3.3 Million Acres of Public Land

Update: In an Instagram post late Wednesday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz said he wouldn't move forward with the bill he introduced last week proposing to sell 3.3 million acres of federal land in 10 different states. He said: "I am withdrawing HR 621. I'm a proud gun owner, hunter and love our public lands. The bill would have disposed of small parcels of lands Pres. Clinton identified as serving no public purpose but groups I support and care about fear it sends the wrong message. The bill was originally introduced several years ago. I look forward to working with you. I hear you and HR 621 dies tomorrow."

According to Brad Brooks of The Wilderness Society, "Rep. Chaffetz did the right thing by withdrawing his bill. H.R. 621 would have allowed the sell off of 3.3 million acres of national public land in 10 western states. Citizens throughout the U.S. who treasure public lands expressed outrage about the bill.

"However, Rep. Chaffetz has also made it clear that he aims to dismantle Teddy Roosevelt's legacy elsewhere, by attacking national monuments and the Antiquities Act and promoting other measures designed to starve national federal lands of law enforcement resources needed to prevent vandalism and protect wildlife.

"This is one victory in a broader defense of public lands at large, and we plan to hold Rep. Chaffetz and the rest of Congress accountable every time they fail to protect the places that celebrate our outdoor and cultural heritage."

Following approval by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Rep Ryan Zinke's nomination for Interior Secretary now heads to the full Senate for a vote.

ZInke, saying Teddy Roosevelt "had it right" in putting millions of acres under federal protection, repeatedly defended his belief at his confirmation hearing in keeping most public land under federal control and opposing large-scale sale of public land to states, a position that aligns him with Donald Trump and breaks with his party.

As Interior Secretary, Zinke's belief could soon run up against possible larger GOP plans to sell federal land to states, foreshadowed in a rule change by the House last month to alter the cost calculations of transferring federal land. And a bill introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) last week proposes to sell 3.3 million acres of federal land in 10 different states, a move environmental advocates and sportsmen groups say would cut economic activity and block public access to larger parcels of federal land. The 10 states affected are Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.

For a deeper dive:

Zinke: Washington Post, InsideClimate News

Chaffetz bill: The Guardian, E&E, Outdoor Life

Commentary: The New Yorker, Michelle Nijhuis analysis

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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Grand Teton National Park. Twildlife / iStock

America's Most Outstanding Landscapes Need Your Help

By Jason Mark

If you've ever stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon and marveled at the awesome view of the gorge—unmarred by mines or machines—you have the Antiquities Act to thank. If you've ever walked the banks of Wyoming's Snake River and taken in the sight of the stone towers at Grand Teton National Park, you also owe a debt of gratitude to the Antiquities Act. The same is true of California's Death Valley and Mt. Lassen National Parks, as well as Katmai and Glacier Bay National Parks in Alaska, Washington State's Olympic National Park and Arches and Zion National Parks in Utah. In all of these cases, the first step toward establishing a national park was for a president to first designate a national monument under the Antiquities Act.

But this landmark conservation law is now in jeopardy. Some Congressional Republicans—along with Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke, Donald Trump's pick for Interior Secretary—are threatening to repeal or downsize some of the national monuments that President Obama established toward the end of his term. Such a move would be unprecedented: No president has ever sought to reverse a predecessor's monument designations. And the noises about somehow revoking a national monument are likely just prelude to an eventual attempt by Congressional Republicans to rewrite the law in its entirety to prevent future presidential monuments.

Before I go any further, some history might be useful. The Antiquities Act—it just sounds old, right? And, in a way, it is: 111 years old this year, to be exact, having been passed by Congress and signed into law by President Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, in 1906. In this case, however, old doesn't mean outdated. Instead, it means tested and proven.

The Antiquities Act was created as a response to an epidemic of looting and grave-robbing that swept the American West at the turn of the last century. Congress gave the president powers for "the protection of objects of historic and scientific interest." In some cases, presidents have used that power to preserve landscapes containing archaeological treasures. Good examples include national monuments such as Walnut Canyon and Wuptaki in Arizona, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal that runs through Maryland and Hovenweep along the Utah-Colorado border. Sometimes, presidents have leveraged the law to protect outstanding natural features like the Petrified Forest or Craters of the Moon in Idaho. In many cases, the protection of archaeological and natural wonders overlap. See: Grand Canyon, the California Channel Islands or the Bering Land Bridge in Alaska.

The U.S.' first national monument, Devil's Tower in Wyoming, is a classic example of how cultural and physical treasures are often one and the same. For the Lakota and Cheyenne peoples, the dramatic eruption of stone at the edge of the Great Plains was a sacred place. They called the site "Bear's Lodge" and the rock monolith was crucial to their star-knowledge—their way of tracking the seasons. White pioneers, too, were naturally impressed by the sight and when loggers and miners threatened the area, President Roosevelt moved to protect it. The fact that indigenous societies and white settlers alike apprehended a numinous power in the place seems, to me at least, to represent the best of America's conservation traditions. What a wonderful example of how awe crosses cultures.

The brand-new Bears Ears National Monument in Utah clearly follows in the tradition of Devil's Tower. Designated by President Obama right after Christmas, the preserve covers 1.35 million acres of high desert flora and dramatic rock outcroppings, as well as thousands of sites containing relics of pre-Columbian societies—sites that in recent years have suffered from a rash of looting and vandalism. Given the intention of protecting archaeological sites, Bears Ears would seem to be a law school textbook example of how the Antiquities Act should work.

Utah's Congressional delegation sees it differently. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican member of the House of Representatives, says Obama's move represented an "egregious" disregard for the people of Utah. He and other Utah elected officials are pushing for President Trump to revoke the new monument. "If it was created by a pen, it can be dismissed by the pen," Chaffetz told fellow Republicans at a party meeting in Philadelphia.

During his confirmation hearings to become Interior Secretary, Rep. Zinke promised Utah Sen. Mike Lee that, if confirmed, he would travel to southern Utah to investigate the new monument for himself. "It will certainly be interesting to see whether the president has the authority to nullify a monument," Zinke said.

Chaffetz's confidence and Zinke's curiosity are misplaced. Many scholars agree that while the act clearly gives the president the power to establish a monument, there is no procedure for a president to abolish one, since his predecessor's designation would have the force of law (see here and here). A November 2016 report drafted by the Congressional Research Service—Congress' non-partisan policy research arm—cited a 1938 memo from the U.S. Attorney General's office to conclude that the Antiquities Act "does not authorize the President to repeal proclamations and that the President also lacks implied authority to do so."

Christine A. Klein, a professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law who has also written about the act, helped walk me through the legalities. "This stuff you see in the news about presidents acting unilaterally or beyond his authority [in designating monuments] is simply not true," she told me. "There have been only a handful of lawsuits challenging monuments designated by the president and in every case the presidential actions were upheld—and that included two cases before the Supreme Court."

The Antiquities Act, Klein explained, is a delegation of authority from Congress to the president. Accordingly, only a vote of Congress—not a simple swipe of the presidential pen—can revoke a monument.

Which is exactly what Rep. Chaffetz and allies have as a Plan B in case Zinke's "interesting" experiment doesn't go as planned. A close examination of Chaffetz's complaints about Bears Ears shows them to be pretty weak—and points to the larger agenda behind his campaign of small arms fire directed at the Antiquities Act.

Bears Ears opponents complain about the size of the monument, "one of the biggest land grabs in the history of the United States," as Chaffetz likes to say. The law is clear, however, that the size of a monument is a function of its preservation goals: If the idea is to preserve thousands of antiquities spread across a couple thousand square miles, you're going to need to protect a million-plus acres to get the job done. When Teddy Roosevelt set aside 800,000 acres to protect the Grand Canyon, mining interests complained as well—and then lost their case before the Supreme court.

Bears Ears opponents also claim that this was an undemocratic process. "There is not a single … elected official that represents that area that's in favor of it," Chaffetz has said. Note the lawyerly wording there—"elected officials." What about the people who live in the region? When former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and other federal officials traveled to southern Utah last summer for a hearing on the proposed monument, proponents—led by a historic coalition of Native American tribes—outnumbered opponents by three-to-one. According to a statewide poll take in the spring of 2016, 71 percent of Utahans supported the Bears Ears proposal.

The technical and procedural complaints disguise a larger ideological dislike of the Antiquities Act: Congressional Republicans hate the law, full stop. Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican who chairs the National Resources committee, has called the law "the most evil act ever invented" and has said that anyone who likes the Antiquities Act as written should "die" because he "needs stupidity out of the gene pool." Bishop, Chaffetz and others are angered by what they believe is federal overreach. Local communities, they argue, should decide how those lands are managed. I agree that local consultation is important—which is why those federal officials held the public hearings in the first place. But make no mistake: These are public lands and they belong equally to all citizens, everywhere.

Bishop and Chaffetz's ultimate goal isn't just to reverse the single national monument of Bears Ears, but to roll back the Antiquities Act altogether. Bishop has repeatedly introduced legislation to change the law. The congressman refers to his legislation as reform—but in this case, "reform" is synonymous with "weaken" and "render meaningless."

If you care about conservation and think the president should have the ability to protect lands when Congress fails to act, what is to be done? In the near term, as Trump and Zinke mull an attempt to revoke a monument by executive order, the fight is probably in the hands of lawyers. But eventually this issue will go to the floor of Congress. And when it does, the fate of this keystone environmental law will rest in your hands.

For more than a century, the Antiquities Act has protected some of America's most outstanding landscapes. If Congressional Republicans make good on their threats, it will be up to us to protect the Antiquities Act.

Politics

Pruitt and Zinke Confirmation Hearings Kick Off Busy Week on Capitol Hill

Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke's confirmation hearings today kick off a busy week on the Hill for environment and climate hawks facing three crucial back-to-back cabinet hearings.

While Zinke is expected to have a relatively smooth path to getting the Interior Secretary job, he will probably face questions today around his various positions on federal lands—particularly the issues of transferring ownership to states and encouraging fossil fuel development on federal lands.

His muddled stance on climate science, numerous financial ties to the oil and gas industry, and financial irregularities in his Navy career may also get time in the spotlight.

"Senators have a duty to clear up Rep. Zinke's confusing and, frankly, conflicting record," Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said. "He's spoken against selling off public lands but backed a recent measure allowing just that. He's supported land and water conservation efforts but also indiscriminate oil and gas extraction on public lands. He's both acknowledged and questioned climate change. And he's put polluters ahead of people after accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the oil, gas and mining industries."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmation hearings for Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, slated for Wednesday, are expected to be this week's main event.

Green groups and the fossil fuel industry have been prepping for weeks for an epic showdown over Pruitt's controversial nomination, and Senate Democrats have indicated that they're prepared to dig in their heels and block the climate denier from heading an agency he was once hell-bent on destroying.

Over the weekend, Pruitt's numerous shady financial ties to the fossil fuel industry and other corporate interests grabbed the spotlight again, as several outlets highlighted the various ways that campaign contributions may have influenced his decisions as attorney general.

On Monday, 13 former heads of state environmental protection agencies sent a letter to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee recommending they vote no on the nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. EPA.

The letter reads:

"As former heads of state environmental protection agencies, we have had the honor—and the responsibility—of ensuring that our states' residents enjoy clean air, safe water and access to conservation land. We write to express our views on the nomination of Scott Pruitt to be Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) —and thank the Committee for this opportunity.

"While we have worked under both Republican and Democratic Governors, reflect a range of political views, and come from diverse states, we share a common concern about Mr. Pruitt's nomination. His record, particularly as a litigator against many EPA rules, causes us to question whether he appropriately respects science-based decision making, and understands the important role that EPA must play in the 'cooperative federalism' model that undergirds our nation's environmental laws."

For a deeper dive:

Confirmation week: Washington Post, NPR, CBS, The Hill

Zinke: New York Times, AP, Reuters, Politico Pro, NPR, ClimateWire

Hearing: WSJ, The Hill, InsideClimate News

Industry influence: New York Times, Politico Pro, Huffington Post, ClimateWire

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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