Regulators overhaul oil, gas drilling rules for national parks

Regulators overhaul oil, gas drilling rules for national parks
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The National Park Service (NPS) updated its standards Friday for oil and natural gas drilling on land it owns, bringing hundreds of wells under the agency’s authority for the first time.

Oil and gas drilling is rare on NPS land and is limited to areas where a private or state landowner controls mineral rights. Drilling only happens in 12 of the 413 national parks.

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“We have a fundamental responsibility to conserve park resources and the values for which these parks are created for the enjoyment of future generations,” NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis said in a statement.

“The changes we made to this rule bring more than 300 previously exempt oil and gas operations in parks under NPS regulations,” he said. “The rule clarifies the process for oil and gas development in the small group of parks where current operations exist, and for parks that may have to manage oil and gas operations in the future.”

The rule had not been updated in 37 years.

The update brings 319 wells under NPS regulations, removes a cap on financial bonding requirements for drillers and strengthens enforcement powers.

The National Parks Conservation Association welcomed the rules but said the NPS needs to go farther and buy out private and state mineral rights to stop drilling.

“The completion of the Park Service’s five-year effort to update mineral development rules is a significant development for our national parks,” Nicholas Lund, the group’s senior manager for landscape conservation, said in a statement.

“The last thing a visitor wants to see are more oil rigs in national parks,” he said. “While these new rules will not stop drilling in parks outright, thanks to them, not only will national parks will be better protected, but producers will also now be held liable for the impact these operations have on our parks.”