Despite the Trump administration's unrelenting quest to drill the Arctic, Wednesday's oil and gas lease sale in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) yielded a "disappointing" return of $1.5 million, E&E News reported.
Oil and gas giants ConocoPhillips, Emerald House and Nordaq Energy were the three companies that made uncontested bids on 16 tracts of land out of 254 tracts made available by the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) annual sale in the western Arctic.
Less than 10 min away from the 2018 National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska Oil and Gas Lease Sale. Tune in at 10am (A… https://t.co/XUPJsdCrOW— BLM Alaska (@BLM Alaska)1544640923.0
In all, the companies swooped up roughly 174,000 acres of the 2.85 million acres offered, working out to an average of just $6.50 an acre.
"Federal officials [cited] a lack of access to the most promising areas as a reason for the modest bidding," the Anchorage Daily News reported.
But the Center for American Progress said the result was a "major flop that shortchanged taxpayers" and also puts the nearby Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) environment at risk.
"These results show that the fiscal arguments—including promises of more than $1 billion, or bids of $1,000 per acre—made for drilling in the neighboring Arctic National Wildlife Refuge were a complete scam," the organization tweeted. "Taxpayers are being sold a false bill of goods in the Arctic Refuge, and stand to lose America's last best wilderness in the process."
The Trump administration is moving forward on its controversial oil and gas drilling plans in the pristine Arctic reserve, a habitat for polar bears, caribou, migratory birds and other species.
Kristen Miller, the conservation director at the Alaska Wilderness League, similarly criticized Wednesday's "bargain sale," noting that "our public lands are worth more than that."
The sale is "just the next chapter in the current administration's all-out push to sell off the Arctic for oil and gas development," she added. "The Trump administration is aggressively pursuing development in the Arctic Refuge, the Arctic Ocean and the Western Arctic simultaneously, often on a rushed timeline with little to no new information gathering to inform decisions."
Trump: 'I Never Appreciated ANWR' Until Oil Industry Friend Called https://t.co/Dzq5wG8gUy #ANWR @IENearth @350… https://t.co/NsjxuY6m62— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1517582357.0
In October 2017, the Trump administration announced it will begin selling oil and gas leases on 900 tracts of land—totaling 10.3 million acres—within the NPR-A.
"This large and unprecedented sale in Alaska will help achieve our goal of American Energy Dominance," Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke touted then.
But when auction day came around later that year, oil companies submitted bids on only seven tracts, totaling $1.16 million.
"Once again Secretary Zinke has tried to throw open the Alaskan Arctic to drilling, and once again the oil and gas industry said they weren't interested," Jesse Prentice-Dunn, the Center for Western Priorities' policy director, said in the statement Wednesday, as quoted by KTVA. "Today's underwhelming lease sale shows just how desperate the Trump administration is to mine and drill our public lands, regardless of how pristine those places may be."
- Why Americans Will Never Agree on Oil Drilling in the Arctic ... ›
- Trump Rushes To Sell Oil Drilling Leases in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - EcoWatch ›
- Trump Plans 'Going Out of Business' Sale With Arctic Drilling Leases - EcoWatch ›
Zinke's Shrinking of National Monuments and Meetings With Halliburton Could be Center of DOJ Investigation
One of the Department of Interior's (DOI) internal watchdog investigations into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's behavior while in office has been referred to the Justice Department, which only happens when investigators determine there might have been a criminal violation, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
Two sources familiar with the investigation broke the news to the press, but did not specify which of the probes into Zinke's actions was involved. A senior White House official only told The Washington Post that the investigation revolved around whether Zinke "used his office to help himself."
The Department of Interior's (DOI) Office of Inspector General (OIG) is currently running three ethics investigations of Zinke. These include whether his decision to shrink Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument was partly to benefit a local lawmaker and if conversations with the chair of oil-giant Halliburton about a Montana development project Zinke stands to benefit from constituted a conflict of interest.
"The evidence is mounting that Ryan Zinke has criminally abused his power to exploit taxpayer funds in order to afford the lavish lifestyle he desires while working to enrich his friends in the fossil fuel industry. Now, the chickens are coming home to roost," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement. "Ryan Zinke has done his best to emulate Scott Pruitt, now it's time he finishes the impersonation and resigns."
The news comes two weeks after rumors that Zinke would replace acting Inspector General Mary L. Kendall with a Trump administration political appointee from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. DOI denied those reports, but Center for Western Priorities Executive Director Jennifer Rokala suggested that they still put the independence of the internal DOI investigation at risk.
"If Interior's inspector general is unable to hold Secretary Zinke accountable without political interference, it's time for career prosecutors at the Justice Department to take over," she said in a statement reported by The Washington Post.
Zinke himself brushed off the Justice Department investigation and said no one from the department had contacted him.
"They haven't talked to me. It will be the same thing as all the other investigations. I follow all rules, procedures, regulations and most importantly the law. This is another politically driven investigation that has no merit," he told CNN.
Ryan Zinke visited Grand Canyon National Park on Sept. 22.U.S. Department of the Interior
These are the three investigations that might get Zinke in criminal trouble:
- Grand Staircase Escalante: When Zinke redrew the boundaries of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, he drew them around a piece of land belonging to a state lawmaker, prompting concerns that he was trading public lands for political favors.
- Halliburton Deal: Zinke has met with Halliburton Chair David Lesar while in office and discussed a Montana real estate development owned by Lesar's son that might include a brewery that the Zinke's would run and could increase the value of land nearby owned by the Zinke's foundation. The DOI is involved with regulating Halliburton.
- Connecticut Casino Controversy: Connecticut lawmakers asked for an investigation into Zinke's handling of a potential Native American casino project. He met with lobbyists opposed to the project, but refused to meet with proponents and may have given false information to the tribes involved.
Majority of National Parks Panel Quits in Protest of Ryan Zinke https://t.co/eCA7pP6wuI @IMPL0RABLE @American_Bridge @The_Anti_Fox— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1516226709.0
- Ryan Zinke Wins 2017 Rubber Dodo Award ›
- Zinke Announces Plan to Fight Wildfires With More Logging ›
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
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waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
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And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
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Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
The move withdraws more than 30,000 acres of public lands in Montana's Paradise Valley from new claims for gold, silver and other mineral extraction for 20 years. It does not impact existing mining claims on private lands in the area.
"I fully support multiple use of public lands, but multiple use is about balance and knowing that not all areas are right for all uses," Zinke said in a statement posted by The Hill. "There are places where it is appropriate to mine and places where it is not. Paradise Valley is one of the areas it's not."
The announcement is a noted departure for Zinke and the Trump administration, which has significantly downsized and opened up staggering chunks of federal land across the country to oil, gas and other extractive industries.
Zinke has previously voiced support for the Yellowstone mining ban, which protects land in his home state of Montana.
"I've been fighting to protect the Paradise Valley and Yellowstone since I represented Montana in Congress," he said in March.
What a great day for the Paradise Valley. Today I signed a 20 year mineral withdrawal to protect Emigrant Peak and… https://t.co/p6ZKWs5NBy— Secretary Ryan Zinke (@Secretary Ryan Zinke)1539018266.0
This is not the first time Zinke has appeared to treat his home state differently. Last year, in his review of national monuments, he suggested creating three new monuments, including the Badger-Two Medicine area next to the Blackfeet Nation reservation by Glacier National Park in Montana. Also in March, the Bureau of Land Management—which the Interior department oversees—removed 17,300 acres of Montana from oil and gas leases.
"I've always said there are places where it is appropriate to develop and where it's not. This area certainly deserves more study, and appropriately we have decided to defer the sale," Zinke said in a statement after pulling the sale.
"Secretary Zinke always seems to support conservation in his home state of Montana, while backing the most aggressive forms of industrial development in the other 49 states. While Zinke rushes to open up places like Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and the Boundary Waters to copper, uranium, and coal mining, only Montana's natural treasures get the protection they deserve. It's now clear Ryan Zinke will only do the right thing when his political future is on the line."
Zinke has denied any particular favoritism towards Montana.
"I don't think that's supported by the facts," he told The New York Times in April, noting that he halted oil and gas leases near New Mexico's Chaco Canyon and pushed for coastal redevelopment in Louisiana.
"I do listen to Montanans the same way I listen to Palau or the Virgin Islands," he added.
Yellowstone-area mining has been a concern since 2016 when proposals for a pair of gold mines popped up in the Emigrant and Crevice mining districts, according to the Sierra Club. That prompted residents and local businesses to urge the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to withdraw the area's public lands from mining. In response, then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell imposed a two-year mining ban in the region, which was set to expire next month.
"This incredible victory for our first national park reminds us all that Yellowstone is more precious and valuable than gold," Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of National Parks Conservation Association, said in a press release Monday.
Pierno thanked Zinke and Agriculture Secretary Perdue for protecting the area from industrial gold mining.
"Their decision reflects the will of many and confirms that national parks can be a common ground in divided times," she said.
By Jason Mark
More than three months after he delivered his national monument recommendations to the White House, Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke on Tuesday finally made public his list of proposed reductions and management changes to 10 monuments. The announcement came one day after President Donald Trump, in the largest rollback of protected areas in U.S. history, signed a pair of proclamations slashing the size of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument.
In addition to the reductions in the two Utah monuments Trump announced Monday, Zinke is urging unspecified reductions in Nevada's Gold Butte National Monument and Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, which straddles the California-Oregon border. The report also urges the president to consider changing the boundaries of two marine monuments in the Pacific Ocean: Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll.
Conservation groups and some elected officials quickly criticized Zinke's recommendations. "Secretary Zinke falsely claims the Interior Department is listening to the voices of Oregonians when it comes to the agency's damaging, vague recommendation to close off public access to the Cascade-Siskiyou monument," Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and an outspoken proponent of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, said. "This is not what the majority of Oregonians signed up for when they spoke out in favor of expanding protections for this Oregon treasure. These public lands belong to all Oregonians and all Americans, not to corporations or Trump's department heads."
Environmental organizations, led by several southwestern Native American nations, are already moving to block Trump's national monument reductions, which they say are illegal.
"Yesterday, we saw the largest ever stripping of protections for America's publicly owned lands, with losses at two national monuments in Utah," Jamie Williams, president of the Wilderness Society, said Tuesday. "Today, President Trump and Secretary Zinke are doubling down on their illegal and unpopular attack on public lands and waters by proposing to rip away protections from even more of America's favorite places in the Nevada desert and the lush forests of Oregon and Northern California."
Zinke's report also calls for making changes to the management plans of another half dozen national monuments, including Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts in the Atlantic Ocean, and New Mexico's Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks. In general, the recommended changes call for allowing additional logging, cattle grazing, and/or the use of off-road motorized vehicles.
On a call Tuesday with reporters, Zinke rejected arguments that the monument reductions are in any way motivated by efforts to increase fossil fuel extraction on public lands. "This is not about energy," Zinke told reporters. "There is no oil and gas assets."
Zinke's official report to the president, however, does note that Trump's April 2017 executive order asking for the national monument review explicitly raised the issue of energy assets: "Monument designations that result from a lack of public outreach and proper coordination with state, tribal, and local officials and other relevant stakeholders may also create barriers to achieving energy independence, restrict public access to and use of federal lands, burden state, tribal, and local governments, and otherwise curtail economic growth." The formal review of Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument notes that the area contains "an estimated several billion tons of coal."
Zinke’s Monument Review: Another Gift to Oil, Gas, and Coal https://t.co/MosPAvoxju @Sierra_Magazine @greenpeaceusa— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1507067118.0
During the Tuesday press conference, Zinke also blasted critics who have complained that the monument review process has been one-sided, lacking in transparency, and deaf to public opinion. "I don't yield to public pressure," Zinke said. "Sound public policy is not based on the threats of a lawsuit; it's doing what's right."
According to an analysis by the Center for Western Priorities, 98 percent of the 650,000 public comments received by the Interior Department during Zinke's review process favored preserving national monuments at their current size.
Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA magazine.
In less than one week, Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke will submit his final recommendations to President Trump on whether 27 national monuments around the country should be downsized, eliminated, transferred to state control or left alone.
But as Aaron Weiss, the media director of the conservation group Center for Western Priorities, pointed out: "Rather than spending his final week hearing from local communities who have worked tirelessly to protect their natural and cultural heritage as national monuments, Secretary Zinke is on vacation in the Mediterranean. His wife, Lola Zinke, tweeted a picture early this morning of herself and Secretary Zinke enjoying a sunrise on the Bosphorus Strait."
Love on the Bosporus #summer https://t.co/rNr9PBC8k2— Lola Zinke (@Lola Zinke)1502952996.0
Center for Western Priorities deputy director Greg Zimmerman had similar criticisms.
"Our national monuments are full of beautiful places to take a summer trip. Secretary Zinke promised a rigorous analysis of national monuments, but what the American public got was a sham review and a foreign vacation," Zimmerman said.
"If he bothered to listen, Secretary Zinke would have found that national monuments are cornerstones of Western economies, that they protect exceptional and unique lands, and, most of all, that virtually no Americans support eliminating national monuments. I worry, instead, he's moving to permanently shut down national monuments."
Under Trump's April executive order, the former Montana congressman was given 120 days determine if previous presidential administrations exceeded their authority in 27 monument designations.
According to Weiss, Zinke promised that he would listen to and engage with local communities and national monument stakeholders before permanently closing any national monuments.
However, the secretary has only stepped foot and met with stakeholders in eight of the sites and is not expected to make other visits before the Aug. 24 deadline, Weiss noted.
More than 2.7 million people flooded the government comment website saying they want the country's iconic natural and cultural landmarks to remain protected.
Public lands advocates and environmentalists worry that Zinke's final recommendations could open up national monuments for private development. Greenpeace reported in July that public records highlight that Zinke's personal schedule includes several meetings with oil and gas companies and lobbying firms including BP America, Chevron, ExxonMobil, American Petroleum Institute, Western Energy Alliance and Continental Resources.
On Thursday, a dozen protestors gathered at the U.S. Forest Service office in downtown Missoula to protest the secretary as well as the president. According to the Missoulian, they held signs that said, "Zinke is Stinke" and "Zinke Public Lands Enemy #1."
Derek Ketner, one of the demonstrators, told the publication that it was "embarrassing" that Zinke had not visited all of the monuments under review.
"It's very important and we want our views to be heard," Ketner said. "We're hoping that he will finally start listening to us."
Cleanup efforts are underway after a failed Chevron Corporation pipeline released about 4,800 gallons of oil into an intermittent stream on public land in northwestern Colorado and killed some wildlife.
The breach happened on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and was first detected on March 5 by a Chevron consultant. The pipeline was shut down after discovery of the leak and the oil is now trapped in a berm and siphon dam in a dry ravine, according to the Associated Press.
As it happens, the leak occurred around the same time that the conservation group Center for Western Priorities found that Chevron was behind 31 reported spills in Colorado last year, ranking the energy corporation as the fourth highest oil and gas spiller in the state.
2016 Colorado Oil and Gas Toxic Release TrackerCenter for Western Priorities
Chevron spokeswoman Erika Conner said that while there are no public health concerns after the March 5 incident, some animals have died. Two mallard ducks covered in oil were found at the spill site and were transferred to Colorado Parks and Wildlife on March 5 but died the day after. Two other small birds and several mice have also been found dead by cleanup crews.
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been notified," Conner told The Daily Sentinel. "We regret the impact the release has had on the affected animals and are working diligently to avoid any additional impacts to wildlife."
Colorado Department of Natural Resources spokesman Todd Hartman told the AP that the failed section of pipeline is being analyzed to determine a cause.
The spill involved a 6-inch-diameter oil gathering pipeline, BLM spokesman David Boyd told The Daily Sentinel.
In its recent report, the Center for Western Priorities calculated available data from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and determined there were 509 reported spills in 2016—that's more than one a day in Colorado.
There have already been 220 'significant' pipeline spills already this year. https://t.co/8f5iciNgkc via @EcoWatch— NRDC (@NRDC)1478964421.0
The number of spills in 2016 are less than the 615 reported spills and incidents in 2015, reflecting the decrease in drilling activity. However, the group expects spills to increase as the state ramps up oil and gas production.
"As drilling and production increase in Colorado—which is expected as the price of oil and gas may increase in the coming years—we also expect to see spills increase," the report said. "Monitoring these incidents help to inform Coloradans about the impacts of oil and gas development within the state."
In response to the report, Chevron said in a statement that it "aggressively manages the risk of spills through a rigorous ongoing asset integrity program wherever we operate."
"For example, Chevron has undertaken a comprehensive, multi-year, multi-million-dollar project to streamline and upgrade facilities and systems at our largest Colorado asset in Rangely," the company continued. "The program will continue through 2018. To date, approximately 11 miles of pipes have been removed from service."