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Northeast National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. Bob Wick / BLM

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.

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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visited Yosemite National Park on July 22. Sherman Hogue / DOI

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."

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Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke extended an existing mining ban in mountains north of Yellowstone National Park on Monday.

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.

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A view from Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument—Pilot Rock. BLM / Bob Wick / Flickr

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.

Zinke's final report to the president is largely identical to a version of the recommendations that was leaked to the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal in September.

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Ryan Zinke with Rick Perry at the Boy Scouts Jamboree. Twitter

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."

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Oil trapped by a berm and siphon dam in a dry ravine near Rangely, Colorado after a Chevron pipeline spill earlier this month. Photo credit: Environmental Protection Agency

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.


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."

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