The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Big Oil Cheers as Trump Plans to Open National Parks for Drilling
The president-elect plans to open up federal lands for more energy development and, according to Reuters, energy companies and industry lobbyists are already expecting a flurry of new federal drilling and mining leases with the incoming administration.
"This opportunity is unique, maybe once in a lifetime," Jack Gerard, president of the Washington DC-based American Petroleum Institute lobby group, told the news service in regards to increased access to federal leases.
Vast quantities of oil, natural gas, coal and uranium are tucked away in government-owned national parks and forests, wildlife refuges and tribal territories from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico.
As Reuters noted, under the Obama administration, oil output on federal land made up about a fifth of the national total in 2015, down from more than a third in 2010. Onshore drilling leases also fell about 15 percent.
However, 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 has accused Obama of "denying millions of Americans access to the energy wealth sitting under our feet" by restricting leasing and banning new coal extraction.
The U.S. government owns roughly 640 million acres of land, and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) manages most of it. In December, Trump nominated U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke of Montana, a climate change skeptic and coal mining advocate as head of the department.
As it happens, The Wilderness Society calculated that 90 percent of the lands held by the Bureau of Land Management, a bureau of the DOI, is already open to oil and gas development. Most of these lands are in the West and Alaska.
At the same time, with crude oil prices above $50 a barrel, a drilling boom is in sight. As Bloomberg reported, U.S. shale producers are starting to hire back workers after sharp cutbacks in recent years and have added rigs to the shale patch in North America.
Even though Trump has previously said that he wants to keep public lands "great" and is "not looking to sell off land," that doesn't mean the leasing of public lands and waters for energy production is off the table.
Trump's own Energy Independence website states, "Rather than continuing the current path to undermine and block America's fossil fuel producers, the Trump Administration will encourage the production of these resources by opening onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands and waters." He also plans to end the "war on coal" and intends to scrap emissions regulations issued by the Obama Administration, such as the Clean Power Plan.
Trump's advisors are also seeking to privatize Native American reservations, which sit on an estimated 20 percent of the nation's oil and gas, along with large amounts of coal reserves. These resources are worth nearly $1.5 trillion.
In an effort to safeguard the environment, President Obama recently designated about 1.6 million acres in Utah and Nevada as national monuments. He also banned new drilling in federal waters in parts of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.
Republican lawmakers, however, have vowed to undo the measures. For now, it looks like the Right's "Drill, Baby, Drill" ethos is back on.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.