Interior secretary seeks cleaner, safer energy on public lands

In the final years of the Obama administration, officials want to focus on reforms to make energy production on public lands cleaner and safer, Interior Secretary Sally JewellSally JewellOutdoor gear companies take on Trump Overnight Regulation: Trump administration lifts Obama freeze on federal coal mining Trump administration ends Obama's coal-leasing freeze MORE said.

The Interior Department is also working to improve the way it manages leases, in part to ensure that the government and taxpayers get a fair price for resources.

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Jewell outlined her plans Tuesday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, framing her speech as the middle of an eight-year-long process by the Obama administration to reform how the country’s main land management agency deals with oil, gas, coal and renewable energy on its property.

“Our task by the end of this administration is to put in place common-sense reforms that promote good government and help define the rules of the road for America’s energy future on our public lands,” Jewell said.

She said improving safety rules can help not only minimize risk, but also build confidence among the companies that lease federal land for energy production.

Jewell said the agency is only “days” away from issuing standards to regulate hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas on public land.

“The rule will include measures to protect our nation’s groundwater — requiring operators to construct sound wells, to disclose the chemicals they use, and to safely recover and handle fluids used in the process,” she said.

Interior is also working on rules to reduce methane emissions at oil and gas wells, protect streams from coal mining, improve standards for offshore drilling blowout preventers and set specific rules for drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

Jewell also wants to “improve the way we do business as a federal government.”

That includes an upcoming rule to make it easier to adjust royalty rates for oil and natural gas drilling, implement an automated permitting system that relies less on paper and better identify which land and water areas are good for leasing and which shouldn’t have energy production.

She also wants more innovation in federal energy production, which she said could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change and spur the use of renewable, low-carbon energy.

“For us at Interior, we are already adjusting our land management strategies for the impacts of climate change,” she said.

“But we also need to do more to address the causes of climate change. Helping our nation cut carbon pollution should inform our decisions about where we develop, how we develop, and what we develop.”