Week ahead: Trump expected to shrink two national monuments

Week ahead: Trump expected to shrink two national monuments
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President Trump is expected to announce in the coming week that he will shrink the size of at least two national monuments.

The decision is likely to come in Utah on Monday, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. Trump is considering shrinking two large, controversial monuments in the state — Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante — and he will rally support for that decision during his visit there.

The White House confirmed Friday that Trump will make the Salt Lake City trip, but did not mention what he would discuss.

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Trump's decision on Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante will come after a months-long review of 27 national monument declarations made by his three immediate predecessors in the Oval Office.

Trump in April ordered Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Spending bill targets Pruitt | Ryan not paying 'close attention' to Pruitt controversies | Yellowstone park chief learned of dismissal through press release Yellowstone superintendent officially learned of dismissal through press release GOP offshore drilling proposal triggers debate MORE to reconsider monument designations of over 100,000 acres and determine whether any of the declarations should be rescinded or shrunk. Conservatives, especially in the West, have long criticized the presidential power to unilaterally establish large national monuments on federally owned land.

Zinke said in June that he would recommend Trump shrink the 1.3-million-acre Bears Ears monument, which former President Obama established shortly before he left office. Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchOn The Money: Trump imposes B in tariffs on China | China blasts 'fickle' Trump, promises payback | Trump to name consumer bureau director next week Trump announces tariffs on billion in Chinese goods Dems best GOP as Scalise returns for annual charity baseball game MORE (R-Utah) confirmed in October that Trump said he would follow the recommendation, and a staffer in Hatch's office told Utahans that Trump would shrink the 1.9-million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante as well.

Citing government documents, The Washington Post reported Thursday that Trump would shrink Bears Ears by 85 percent and cut Grand Staircase-Escalante in half. The Interior Department disputed those documents as "antiquated and inaccurate."   

But a decision to shrink the monuments on any scale will be controversial.

Conservationists, environmentalists, public lands enthusiasts and the outdoor recreation industry have hammered the Trump administration for even raising the prospect of reducing previously established monument designations, promising to sue over any attempt to do so.

Critics of the presidential monument-making authority, however, have welcomed Trump's review. They are urging Congress to reform the Antiquities Act to make it tougher for presidents to create new monuments in the future.    

In Congress, the House and Senate are expected to begin working on compromise tax-reform legislation, which currently serves as the vehicle for a Senate plan to open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for oil drilling.

Senate Republicans passed a tax bill Saturday morning that includes a provision calling for drilling lease sales in ANWR, with the goal of producing $1 billion in new revenue for the federal government.

A House tax bill did not include the provision, and negotiators will have to decide, starting next week, if they want to include it in a final, compromise tax package.

The proposal is a key sweetener for Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Energy: Spending bill targets Pruitt | Ryan not paying 'close attention' to Pruitt controversies | Yellowstone park chief learned of dismissal through press release Senate committee targets Pruitt scandals in spending bill GOP chairman seeks ‘sufficient’ funding for EPA watchdog office MORE (R-Alaska), for whom drilling in ANWR has been a centerpiece legislative goal. But it could be a sticking point in the House: A group of 12 Republicans said Thursday that an ANWR drilling provision should not be included in the bill.

"It's not in the House bill," Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellEnergy commission sees no national security risk from coal plant closures OPEC and Russia may raise oil output under pressure from Trump Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers target Chinese tech giants | Dems move to save top cyber post | Trump gets a new CIA chief | Ryan delays election security briefing | Twitter CEO meets lawmakers MORE (D-Wash.) said Friday. "I think they've had a lot of problems in the last 24 hours and they're going to continue to have problems."

On the nominations front, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hear from two nominees in the week ahead: Timothy Petty to be an assistant secretary of the Interior for water and science and Linda Capuano to be administrator of the Energy Information Administration.

The Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on R.D. James's nomination to be assistant secretary of the Army for civil works.

 

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