Emails show oil was key part of Bears Ears monument decision: NYT

Emails show oil was key part of Bears Ears monument decision: NYT
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Interior Department emails show that its decision to shrink the Bears Ears National Monument was largely centered on allowing for oil and gas exploration on the protected site, The New York Times reports. 

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchKey Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock Trump awards Medal of Freedom to racing industry icon Roger Penske Trump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals MORE (R-Utah) first suggested reductions to the monument that was created under President Obama, citing the vast oil and natural gas deposits under parts of the monument in emails with the department last March. 

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: House Science Committee hits EPA with subpoenas | California sues EPA over Trump revoking emissions waiver | Interior disbands board that floated privatization at national parks Interior disbands advisory board that floated privatization at national parks Overnight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics MORE opened the department's controversial inquiry into altering boundaries for national monuments just one month after Hatch's office provided maps of the reserves on the site.

And Trump's final decision to shrink the 1.3 million acre Bears Ears monument by nearly 85 percent closely followed the boundaries of the map showing those reserves.

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Hatch's plan aimed to take back mineral rights for land trusts that Utah has used to fund public schools by the extraction of the resources, noting in his emails that the provided map would "resolve all mineral conflicts." 

The monument, which the Obama administration designated in 2017, turned 110,000 acres of Utah's trust lands over to the federal government. 

Such designations have been controversial in Western states, where they have been described by opponents as land grabs by the federal government.

Another email in April, obtained by the Times in a lawsuit against the agency, requested details on each site's “annual production of coal, oil, gas and renewables (if any) on site; amount of energy transmission infrastructure on site (if any).”