Overnight Energy: Interior speeds up process to drill on federal land | Zinke promises restructuring plan won’t cut jobs | Trump ‘really didn’t care’ about ANWR at first
ZINKE PROMISES NO JOB CUTS IN RESTRUCTURING: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke promised Thursday that no jobs would be lost or bureaus cut in the agency’s proposed restructuring plans.
“At the end of day I don’t think we’re going to lose anyone in terms of numbers. I think numbers will be pushed more to the front line,” Zinke said at a town hall for department employees.
Instead of cutting jobs or merging bureaus, Zinke said the plan’s focus was on better coordination and on moving bureaus with similar tasks under the same leadership so “all interests are represented.”
“It doesn’t mean we’re going to eliminate the park service or one of our bureaus,” Zinke added.
Zinke first announced plans to overhaul the department’s structure earlier this month. The yet-to-be-finalized plans would move tens of thousands of government employees to new locations across the country and reorganize the management of federal lands.
Read more here.
INTERIOR AIMS TO STREAMLINE DRILLING: The Interior Department implemented a new policy Thursday aimed at streamlining the oil and natural gas drilling process on federal land by cutting back on the opportunities for drilling opponents to slow down the process.
A memo signed Wednesday and released Thursday by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) states that it is the agency’s policy to “simplify and streamline the leasing process to alleviate unnecessary impediments and burdens, to expedite the offering of lands for lease,” and to ensure drilling rights sales happen regularly.
The changes include setting a 60-day deadline for processing proposed lease sales, leaving public participation in certain reviews up to low-level officials, limiting protest periods for sales to 10 days and repealing an Obama administration policy that let other land users, like hunters and anglers, object.
The memo is part of a wide-ranging plan at Interior and elsewhere to tear down barriers to domestic production of oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels.
Conservationists slammed the policy change, calling it a threat to the environment and to other users of federal land.
“Not only is the administration rolling back safeguards for fish and wildlife and other natural resources, it’s also making it harder for Americans to weigh in on decisions about their own public lands by decreasing opportunities for input,” Tracy Stone-Manning, the National Wildlife Federation’s associate vice president for federal lands, said in a statement.
Read more here.
TRUMP ON ANWR: AT FIRST ‘I REALLY DIDN’T CARE ABOUT IT’: President Trump said Thursday that he initially did not care about opening Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and natural gas.
“I really didn’t care about it, and then when I heard that everybody wanted it, for 40 years they’ve been trying to get it approved, I said, ‘Make sure you don’t lose ANWR,'” Trump said in a speech to a congressional Republican retreat in West Virginia.
Trump repeated what he said at a White House event in December, that he is excited about ANWR drilling in part because numerous GOP presidents have failed at get it passed.
“A friend of mine called up who’s in that world and in that business and said, ‘Is it true that you think about ANWR?’ I said, ‘I think we’re going to get it, you know.’ He said, ‘Are you kidding? That’s the biggest thing, by itself.’ He said, ‘Ronald Reagan and every president has wanted to get ANWR approved.'”
But did he?: The Washington Post caught up with Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) after the speech, and he said Trump was quite knowledgeable on ANWR.
Sullivan and the rest of the Alaska delegation met with Trump early last year and spoke extensively about ANWR and their request to open it to drilling.
“We had the opportunity to brief the president last year. It was early, like February or March. Over an hour, in the Oval, you know, that’s a lot of time,” Sullivan told the Post.
“It was maps, it was on his desk, Zinke was there. And it was all about Alaska, all about Alaska issues, all about our priorities. And we talked about ANWR.”
Sullivan said Trump “actually knew a fair amount about Alaska,” and his grandfather worked there decades ago.
WATCHDOG FAULTS PARK POLICE POLICIES ON BODY CAMS: Interior’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) concluded Thursday that subpar draft policies on body camera use present a risk to the Interior and its bureaus, including the U.S. Park Police.
The Interior currently lacks a finalized official policy on the use of body cameras by law enforcement.
Use of body cameras has been voluntary and decisions to purchase equipment are generally made at the field or regional level within Interior, the report said. The report said bureaus are currently in the process of issuing their own policies, including the Park Police.
The OIG report also said that a current draft proposal at Interior on the issue still fails to meet standards set by the law enforcement industry.
OIG recommendations for the draft policy included standards for controls over body camera recordings, prohibiting manipulation of devices and a ban on sharing recordings.
“Implementation of a successful body camera program is at risk, particularly in areas such as data quality, systems security, and privacy,” the report said.
“The inconsistent use of body cameras and failure to adhere to industry standards also increases the risk that investigative or judicial proceedings will be challenged for failure to properly maintain evidence chain of custody, and could lead to an erosion of public trust in bureau law enforcement programs.”
Read more here.
AROUND THE WEB:
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) says he supports extending the ban on fracking in the Delaware River basin, NorthJersey.com reports.
Researchers say agriculture is a larger contributor to California’s smog problem than previously thought, Pacific Standard reports.
Dozens of farmers and business owners are suing California over last year’s Oroville Dam crisis, the Sacramento Bee reports.
FROM THE HILL’S OPINION SECTION:
-John O’Grady, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, says that President Trump plans to trade clean air policies for infrastructure upgrades.
-Bill Arnold, professor of energy management at Rice University’s business graduate school, expects that many energy companies will soon follow suit after Exxon’s announced investment plans in the U.S.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Check out Thursday’s stories …
-Interior rolls back oil drilling policies for federal land
-Interior chief: Restructuring plan won’t cut jobs or bureaus
-Trump ‘really didn’t care about’ ANWR initially
-New York to sue EPA over Obama water rule delay
-EPA announces plan to remove Manhattan Project nuclear waste from Missouri site
-Interior agency delayed tribal casino approval after competitor’s lobbying: report
-Uncertainty swirls around Pebble Mine after EPA surprise
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