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    US Congress May Allow More Oil, Gas Drilling in National Parks

    © AFP 2018 / MARK RALSTON
    Environment
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    The US House of Representatives is considering a bill that will ease drilling regulations in America’s national parks, making it easier for companies to gain permission to extract oil and natural gas. The bill, proposed by Republican Paul Gosar of Arizona, is strenuously opposed by environmentalist groups.

    In 40 of America's national parks, split-estate ownership is the rule, in which the government owns everything above ground but cedes underground mineral rights to private entities. Strict regulations were put in place in 1978 to protect US national parks from oil drilling. Last year's 9B Regulations require that oil and gas drillers receive approval from the park, as well as present a plan of operations and sign a legally-binding agreement to enforce the park's safety regulations. 

    The new 9B rules became law in December 2016, modernizing the 1978 statute by establishing limits such as the size, noise, and timing of the fossil-fuel extraction operation. Companies must also pay a "reclamation bond" to cover the costs of environmental damage to the park. It also extended these regulations to nearly 300 wells built in national parks before 1978.

    Rep. Gosar's bill would roll back the 9B regulations under the argument that natural resources should be available to companies, national park or no. It would also exclude the wells that were 'grandfathered in' from federal regulation.

    "The Park Service's midnight oil and gas regulation jeopardizes significant investments made by job creators, states and private companies," Gosar said in a statement. "The federal government has no right to impose job-killing regulations for private and state-owned oil and natural gas wells not owned by the federal government, especially when these wells are already subject to existing environmental regulations."

    Undoing the last-minute regulations of the Obama administration will ensure that "private and state controlled operations will continue under the same environmental regulations that have worked well for the past 38 years," Gosar said Wednesday, February 1.

    Nicholas Lund, senior manager of Landscape Conservation at the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), decried the bill. "These challenges are direct attacks on America's national parks," he said. "Each of these rules provides the common-sense protections for national parks that millions of Americans demand. If the Park Service's drilling rules are repealed, national parks across the country would be subjected to poorly regulated oil and gas drilling, threatening parks' air, water and wildlife."

    In an era where almost everything is politicized, America's national parks remain beloved across party lines. A January 2016 survey by the Center for American Progress found that 77 percent of those surveyed believed the United States benefited from its parks, and 86 percent said the government should "make sure that our parks are protected from air pollution, industrial traffic, and spills by keeping coal mining and drilling for oil and gas away from park boundaries."

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    Tags:
    environmentalism, national park, oil drilling, regulation, National Park Service, House of Representatives, Paul Gosar
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