The Montana representative will play a direct role in Trump’s goal of making America energy independent.
President-elect Donald Trump nominated Representative Ryan Zinke, R, MT, a former Navy Seal, to run the Department of Interior (DOI).
If confirmed, Zinke will play an important role in executing Trump’s energy and regulatory reform efforts by expanding natural resource development on federal lands and offshore as well as reducing regulations that impede these activities.Under President Obama, the DOI restricted traditional energy development by regulating and limiting natural resources development on federal lands. In the meantime, it promoted renewable energy.
Zinke must shift the DOI’s emphasis from Obama’s focus on climate change to Trump’s goal of developing coal, oil, and natural gas to make the U.S. energy independent.
However, Obama’s last-minute executive branch actions to limit coal mining and to permanently ban offshore oil and natural gas drilling will make Zinke’s new mission more difficult.
The DOI is a massive federal department that employs 70,000 bureaucrats with a $12 billion budget. The agency is charged with the vast mission of protecting and managing U.S. natural resources and cultural heritage, especially relating to American Indians and Alaska Natives.
The department is organized in nine different bureaus: Bureau of Indian Affairs; Bureau of Land Management; Bureau of Ocean Energy Management; Bureau of Reclamation; Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement; National Park Service; Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and the U.S. Geological Survey.
To achieve Trump’s energy goals, Zinke needs to address the following:
The DOI’s efforts to restrict coal use must be reversed. The DOI announced a final rule on December 19 to restrict coal mining.
The department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) finalized the Stream Protection Rule to limit the impact of coal mining on water surrounding mining operations. The controversial rule is considered duplicative and was crafted without the legal requirement to work with states. Implementation of the rule will significantly limit coal mining, preventing about 64 percent of the nation’s coal reserves from being developed.
The new rule could be short-lived. Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can issue a resolution of disapproval which blocks a regulation within 60 days of its publication in the Federal Register. Trump, an opponent of the DOI rule will likely sign the resolution in January if Congress votes for the resolution.
Additionally, as part of Obama’s war on coal, the DOI stopped issuing new coal mining leases on federal lands. Approximately 40 percent of coal mining occurs on federal land, with a majority of that amount occurring in the coal-rich area of Wyoming.
Working with Zinke, Trump can reverse Obama’s decision and allow new coal mining leases on federal land.
Oil and natural gas
Zinke will also have to undo the DOI’s efforts to restrict oil and natural gas development. Last month, DOI Secretary Sally Jewell announced the department was stopping oil and natural gas auction rights for drilling in Arctic waters, except in one area. The action follows an earlier reversal in policy in March that removed offshore leasing for Atlantic waters.
The Atlantic decision removes about 104 million acres for development, while the most recent Arctic water announcement will significantly limit access to an estimated 27 billion barrels of oil and 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The announcement does allow for expanded drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and one area in the Arctic — at the Cook Inlet in Alaska.
Zinke’s job to reverse Obama’s drilling bans just got more difficult and complicated with Obama’s December 20 decision to permanently ban offshore drilling off the Atlantic coastline and in Arctic waters surrounding Alaska.
Obama used a provision in the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to ban drilling in large areas off the coast of Alaska and a huge section in the Atlantic — ranging from Massachusetts to Virginia.
According to the White House, Trump can’t undo Obama’s executive action. It will be up to Congress or the courts to reverse Obama’s drilling ban.
Finally, Zinke needs to undo a DOI rule that targets methane emissions from oil and gas development projects on public land. Methane can escape from gas and oil wells. Regulators want to limit accidental leaks because it is a powerful greenhouse gas.
To be successful Zinke will need to address many of the Obama-era DOI regulations and restrictions to meet Trump’s goal of making America energy independent.