Top federal government officials are now facing confrontations and threats similar to what has been seen at the state and local level over the past several years, reports from the country’s top environmental regulatory agency revealed last week. Meanwhile, Members of Congress have asked the Department of Justice if current laws sufficiently protect the public and energy infrastructure from threatening environmental activists. “[Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt] was approached in the airport numerous times, to the point of profanities being yelled at him and so forth,” Henry Barnet, Director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, told Politico.
A deeper dive into the Audubon Society’s assertions last month that an amendment introduced by a Wyoming lawmaker would give oil and gas producers a “free pass to kill birds with impunity” does not reflect industry practices or federal and state regulations, nor does it rely on the best and most recently available data, according to a wildlife scientist and an environmental consultant. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) introduced the amendment to the bipartisan SECURE Act that passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee in November. Cheney’s amendment clarified liability within the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).
A group of former Environmental Protection Agency lawyers sent a letter this week to Administrator Scott Pruitt, asking him to “revise” his October directive ending the agency’s “sue and settle” regulatory settlements with environmental groups. Calling the directive “unfair, unrealistic, and ultimately counterproductive,” the former EPA attorneys said it was up to the agency to avoid litigation by meeting statutory deadlines and fulfilling regulatory duties, and that Pruitt’s directive would decrease transparency.
A new anti-fossil fuel group with plans to sway the 2018 vote in Western states like Nevada and Colorado, has formally launched a campaign to deploy an “army of young people” to push climate change and renewables issues in an effort to assume the mantle of the fading campus divestment movement. Through social media posts, emails, and a newly released video, the “Sunrise Movement” outlines its multi-state campaign of trainings and offers of full-time activism for the 2018 election, targeting politicians for an anti-fossil fuel campaign and paying special attention to one oil and gas company in particular: Exxon.
In light of recent court rulings involving Obama-era rules that are being rewritten by the Trump Administration, it is unclear if oil and gas companies will have to start complying with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) methane and hydraulic fracturing rules. The possibility remains, but appears unlikely due to the trajectory in both court cases and progress the agency is making. These developments indicate that compliance is not a foregone conclusion.
A Western environmental advocacy group with financial ties to the New Venture Fund (NVF), George Soros, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund released a poll attacking Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s not yet released monument review report, according to E&E News. The NVF-backed Western Values Project commissioned the poll the week after Zinke hinted at recommendations to change or reduce a handful of national monuments after conducting a review of the federal holdings ordered by President Trump.
Some recent studies have generated sensational headlines about greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and natural gas industry. Twisting studies to grab more clicks is nothing new, but under closer scrutiny the studies don’t support the hype. Take for example The Guardian’s recent headline, “Just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, according to a new report.” Obviously such a claim grabs people’s attention. The article quickly received over 80,000 shares on Facebook. Those who don’t have to time or the interest to dive into the study, “The Carbon Majors Report,” assume that the world’s largest oil, natural gas and coal companies are almost single-handedly responsible for all man-made greenhouse gas emissions.