Interior credits increased fossil fuel production for jump in revenue from federal lands

Interior credits increased fossil fuel production for jump in revenue from federal lands
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Increased oil and gas production, as well as expanded access on public lands, are responsible for a surge in the Interior Department’s economic revenue this year, the administration said Wednesday.

Production activities on Interior land under the Trump administration helped generate $292 billion in economic output during fiscal year 2017, a big increase of $400 million from the previous year, according to an economic report released by the Interior Department.

The significant increase is being credited to regulatory reforms, increased fossil fuel extraction on public lands and expanded access for surveyors, hunters and fishers done under the Trump administration.

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“Anyone who grew up in the West can tell you that federal lands are working lands and, if managed properly, they support jobs and economic activity for communities in industries like recreation, energy, agriculture, and mining," 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 said in a statement.

"This report shows that thanks to smart regulatory reforms and increased access, federal lands and waters are once again increasing economic output and creating jobs.”

According to the report, the department under President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump supporters at Pa. rally 'upset' after Democrats introduce impeachment articles Trump on removal of protester at rally: 'We don't want to be politically correct' Trump rails against FBI, impeachment during Pennsylvania rally MORE increased the revenue it received from oil and gas royalties on public lands by nearly $1 billion. That includes royalties from 869 million barrels of crude oil, 4.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 347 million tons of coal gotten from Interior-managed public lands and waters.

The report highlighted that nationally the number of onshore wells increased by almost 85 percent, notably in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

When it comes to renewable energy however, Interior’s report found that production plummeted. Energy derived from geothermal, wind and solar on public lands were zeroed out. Hydroelectric venues were the lone green energy source to increase from 36.7 terawatt hours to 43.9.

In its revenue estimate, Interior also included the expected revenue it would give back to the economy due to the number of deregulations on public lands it initiated under Trump. The agency estimated the “savings to the economy” due to the 21 deregulatory actions it initiated, will amass to $3.8 billion overtime.

The report highlighted energy and mineral production as Interior’s top economic output to the national economy at 66.5 percent. Recreation trailed energy production at 22.6 percent.

At least one Conservation group regarded the report and its numbers with heavy skepticism--nothing that fiscal 2017 extends into the Obama administration. The year begins October 2016.

"This report contains no evidence that 'smart regulatory reforms and increased access, federal lands and waters are once again increasing economic output and creating jobs,'" said Jeff Ruch, executive director of the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), citing Interior's press release.

"For example, a portion of revenue reflects recreational visits to parks and other public lands; I don’t think Trump can take credit for any of this unless it can be shown people were visiting preserves in order to get away from Trump-related news."

Ruch added that the comparisons from year to year were not apples to apples. He said the numbers reflect conflicting activities. For example, increases in mining royalties means less access to public lands, which may cause a decrease in camping permits in affected areas. He added that prices for petroleum are also a direct factor of the revenues, not necessarily policy changes.

"Overall, there remains a question of how well Interior is managing these lands and for what purpose," he said.

 

The Interior Department under Zinke has focused heavily on increasing oil and gas production and has been criticized for its emphasis on energy production over recreation. Earlier this year Zinke advised the president to shrink the boundaries of two national monuments in Utah by nearly half, opening up their land to future drilling.

Zinke in January also announced that he was exploring options to expand offshore drilling on federal waters. The decision met near unanimous backlash from government officials from coastal states.

This story was updated at 3:05 p.m.