Colorado’s Public Lands & Public Health Under Attack by House GOP

FRIDAY UPDATE (PK): The House GOP’s efforts to tear down the national BLM methane venting rules is up today.  The Durango Herald has joined with the Sentinel and the Denver Post in urging that Congress leaves this rule in place.

From E&E News (subscription) this morning:

Republicans in Congress are invoking their authority under the Congressional Review Act to repeal rules finalized during President Obama’s last months in office, including several regulations opposed by the energy industry. The Senate yesterday voted to kill an Interior Department rule designed to protect waterways from coal mining pollution…

The House today considers a resolution that would wipe from the books the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, which aims to prevent methane venting, flaring and leakage during oil and gas production.

New Mexico rancher Don Schreiber said he is incensed by the possibility.

“The thought of people without a vulnerable exposure, without exposing their own lives, the lives of their families, their wives, daughters, children, to this threat is infuriating to me and so outside anything that’s reasonable or just,” he said.

 

…”Those insults to our health, air quality, wildlife and climate go on around the clock, and we’re on the sharp end of the stick,” Schreiber said. “We ride our horses right into those BTEX discharges.”

 

THURSDAY POLS UPDATE: Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah is reportedly killing this bill after intense backlash:

Over “fear it sends the wrong message,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz will abandon his bill that called on the Interior Department to dispose of or sell 3.3 million acres of “excess” public lands.

Chaffetz, R-Utah, had reintroduced the legislation in January, saying the disposal was “long overdue.” He’s backed off the plan since then, seemingly in response to the many conservationist groups that protested the plan on social media…

Chaffetz has introduced the bill every year since 2010, but it has never passed or gone forward to a committee hearing. The legislation accords with other Republican efforts in Utah to take control public lands, which account for about two-thirds of the state’s area.

“While there are national treasures worthy of federal protection, there are lands that should be returned to private ownership,” Chaffetz said in 2011.

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Rep. Tipton’s district includes some of America’s most prized, visited and awe-inspiring public lands, as well as North America’s largest cloud of methane pollution. House Republicans are preparing to sell some of Colorado’s public lands, and to gut protections for air and water.

As noted in a previous diary I wrote here, the Republican assault on the lands, water and air did not take long. First up under a “rule change” devaluing the public lands held in trust for all Americans. That was immediately followed by efforts to roll back whatever environmental protections are most vulnerable.

Among the rush to gut environmental rules and protections, we learn that Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz has proposed legislation to begin the public lands sell off.  Public lands that Chaffetz wants to put up for sale are in ten states, according to an article in The Guardian.

The 10 states affected are Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. Residents can see how much acreage is earmarked for “disposal” in their counties by checking a PDF on Chaffetz’s website.

January 2017: Public lands already going up for sale. And some of the most vulnerable environmental rules, not to mention bedrock environmental laws, are about to be gutted.

In addition to selling off and opening up more public lands for development, House Republicans are eager to gut protections for clean air and water as well. Through the Congressional Review Act certain of President Obama’s more recent regulations are open to attack by a simple Congressional majority.

Two that are among those most vulnerable to roll back are the Stream Protection Rule–which expands protections for streams and waterways from coal mining; and the BLM’s Methane Waste Rule–which tightens regulations around wasting (which usually means leaking or venting) methane from oil and gas operations, a leading contributor to methane pollution.

Diverse Destinations

Delta County showcases some of its public lands – who knows which ones the House Republicans are about to sell off?

Although Colorado already has methane rules in place, through action at the state level that also applies to most federal lands, our air isn’t protected from activity in adjacent states–like Colorado’s Uinta and San Juan Basins, oil and gas fields which are both in Rep. Tipton’s Third Congressional District and also both in neighboring states where Colorado’s methane rules don’t apply.

America’s largest cloud of methane pollution hangs over the San Juan Basin oil and gas field and the Four Corners region, represented by Colorado Congressman Scott Tipton.

The Denver Post has editorialized against gutting the BLM methane rule, and in an editorial today, the Grand Junction Sentinel did likewise. A national rule would help improve Colorado’s air quality by making sure industry follows the same type of rules it already follows in Colorado.

The national methane rule is certainly good for Colorado. Its also good for the nation: this wastage of the public’s natural gas–leased to companies to develop prudently, not waste–is a loss of billions of dollars that should be in the U.S. Treasury, per an article in the industry blog Utility Dive.

The Methane Waste Prevention Rule could save up to 41 billion cubic feet of gas annually, [Rep.] Grijalva [D-Ariz.] said in the letter.  That volume of gas could fuel almost three-quarters of a million homes for a year, he said. The rule would change venting and flaring standards that are 35 years old.

And the BLM methane rule its good for the planet too: methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas, a major contributor to human-driven climate change and disruption.

Coloradans, like their fellow westerners, have shown strong support for safeguarding our clean air and water, including favoring methane rules. And we are all for protecting public lands, shown again in a recent poll reported yesterday in the Denver Post and other outlets.

Western voters prioritize protecting water, air and wildlife habitat and opportunities for recreation over increased drilling and mining on public lands, according to a poll released Tuesday.

The voters surveyed over the past two months in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming also favored improving facilities in national parks and other outdoor destinations, the annual “State of the Rockies — Conservation in the West” poll found. And voters favored investment in production of wind and solar energy using public land, rather than extracting more fossil fuels.

One voice, predictably, is regularly in dissent to greater protections for pubic heath, clean air and water, and the environment: fossil fuel companies. And House Republicans, including Colorado’s delegation.

Yes readers, it is true. Despite the overwhelming support Coloradans expresses for environmental protection, our Republicans in DC have not found it necessary to take heed.

Consider the Third Congressional District, which is a sprawling district that includes most of Colorado west of the Divide and the Pueblo area. It is home to much of the state’s federal public lands, as well as coal mining and oil and gas development. The San Juan Basin, for instance, which straddles the state-line running into New Mexico, is drilled with thousands of oil and gas wells. The San Juan Basin, near Tipton’s own hometown, is also home to North America’s largest methane cloud. The BLM methane rule would begin to address this pollution, an imminent climate and pubic health threat.

“Waste of my f**king time,” Speaker Paul Ryan upon exiting House GOP’s news conference. Rep. Tipton took his turn at the mike to make the case for gutting air pollution regulations that would benefit his district.

Nonetheless at a recent House Republican news conference, Tipton was boasting about his efforts to gut protections for the methane rule, and for public health and the environment.

And regarding our much loved public lands: Right at the onset of this Congress, Tipton voted for the House Rules change that made it easier to sell them off.  Tipton claimed the backroom move was more like a clerical change, tidying up the code as it were. But now, House Republicans have quickly followed up with legislation to start dumping the pubic’s lands.

In Delta County where I live, seventeen “parcels” are listed on Rep. Chaffetz’s hit list. In fact, counties across the state–many in Rep. Tipton’s district–are listed on the GOP’s disposal sheet: Archuleta, Gunnison, Garfield, La Plate, Montrose, Ouray, Routt, San Miguel… the list goes on an on.

But other than a list from years back that the staff could not even be bothered to photocopy properly, there is not yet any additional information about which public lands could suddenly sprout NO TRESPASSING signs, where they are, what their other uses may be.

In recognition of the value Coloradans put in our public lands, and the value that pubic lands return to Coloradans already, House Republicans might have ask Colorado Parks and Wildlife to weigh in, or to poll its hunters in affected Game Management Units. Given the multi-billion dollar outdoor industry, they might ask recreationalists, or invite local towns and counties to weigh in.

Public lands bring a wealth of returns to Colorado.

The questions are obvious, but someone needs to ask them all the same: Will maps be displayed in each county? Will public input be invited? Has Rep. Chaffetz invited Rep. Tipton to weigh in on his scheme? And what is Rep. Tipton’s position on Mr. Chaffetz’s bill?

Rather than listen to oil and gas companies, perhaps House Republicans should listen to local communities and American citizens who support keeping public lands in public hands, and who support making sure industry develops energy resources properly–both in terms of reducing pollution and by not wasting valuable resources and public revenue.

Have the House Republicans even asked that any of these matters of public interest be vetted by their constituents?  Lots would most certainly like to have a say. You know, the public. Because it appears time they hear from us. And quickly.

 

 

 

7 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

    Excellent diary, PK..

    The big red trucks are running again… and every citizen who cares about our air and water needs to get active..NOW. 

    It is on each and every Coloradan to go look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are helping to fight for your future, or just standing by watching as the whole thing goes to shit. 

    The boys in charge have only one master….Big Money.

    Big money goes around the world
    Big money take a cruise
    Big money leave a mighty wake
    Big money leave a bruise
    Big money make a million dreams
    Big money spin big deals
    Big money make a mighty head
    Big money spin big wheels

    Sometimes building ivory towers
    Sometimes knocking castles down
    Sometimes building you a stairway
    Lock you underground
    It's that old time religion
    It's the kingdom they would rule
    It's the fool on television
    Getting paid to play the fool

    Big money goes around the world
    Big money give and take
    Big money done a power of good
    Big money make mistakes
    Big money got a heavy hand
    Big money take control
    Big money got a mean streak
    Big money got no soul…  

    Rush/ Neil Peart….1985

     

     

  2. Gilpin Guy says:

    Thanks for the post.  Chaffetz better served the people with his endless Benghazi investigations.

    The other odious bill he introduced was to eliminate federal enforcement on public lands (H.R. 622).  Like local law enforcement is going to have the resources and broad view to protect our public lands from the Bundy's of the nation.

    "To terminate the law enforcement functions of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management and to provide block grants to States for the enforcement of Federal law on Federal land under the jurisdiction of these agencies, and for other purposes."

  3. Gilpin Guy says:

    One thing that folks who are concerned about this land grab can do is to support the non-profit land trust organizations like Nature Conservancy.  These organizations are going to be on the front lines and will compete with developers and the Koch brothers.  They buy the land then make sure it is preserved in perpetuity.  Since our government institutions are no longer capable of preserving the land, these organizations are our best hope.  Please consider making donations to them as they ramp up for these monumental changes in public land policy.

    http://www.nature.org/

    • Conserv. Head Banger says:

      The Nature Conservancy does good work, but it is also a monster sized national and international environmental organization that gets big corporate contributions. A few hundred dollars given to TNC is barely a drop in the bucket, so to speak.

      I encourage people to support local land trusts. Visit the web site of the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts to find a land trust near you ( http://www.cclt.org ). You can further research your chosen Trust by checking their IRS Form 990 and review them on entities like Charity Navigator.

       

  4. taterheaptom says:

    The intertubz is reporting that the weird-looking little chipmunk fella from Deseret done pulled his bill because all the phone calls and tweets made him sad.  

    • Gilpin Guy says:

      Actually his fellow Republicans were telling him that if it passed they would all be out of jobs and the west would be lost territory for Republicans for the next decade.

      The odious little weasel still has H.R. 622 out there which would defund federal enforcement of federal lands.  Hope it gets the fork too.

  5. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    Pols – this diary should be promoted. Nice work as always, PK.

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