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Photo credit: Western Wire

In a major new weeklong push by anti-fossil fuel groups to pressure universities, financial institutions and organizations to sell off their investments in the fossil fuel industry, only a handful of students in the West participated. Desperate for wins, the student activists resorted to claiming victory for getting kicked out of university buildings, changing the discussion on campus and shutting down banks.

EPA.gov

In a legal settlement announced this morning, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will drop efforts to preemptively block a proposed mine in southwest Alaska and allow its owner to apply for regulatory permits for the project. Pebble Partnership’s proposed gold, cooper, and molybdenum mine in Alaska was effectively scuttled in 2014 by EPA’s preemptive veto of the project before the company had filed any permit applications. Critics of EPA’s action have argued the agency perverted the permitting process by stopping a project from moving forward before an application had been submitted.

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State officials told a Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing this morning that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) should be reformed to give states a larger role in the decisionmaking process. The implementation of the law has proved challenging for some states, which “play a central role in fulfilling the Endangered Species Act’s mission,” committee chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said in his remarks today.

Interior.gov

As Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wraps up his tour of the West today, he used his travels to highlight opportunities for increased oil and natural gas development under the Trump administration. At a conference in Houston last week, Zinke said the United States should look beyond energy independence and instead aim for energy dominance, Bloomberg reported. “Dominance is what America needs,” Zinke said.

Photo credit: U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp

North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s (D) vote this morning against repealing an Obama administration rule targeting oil and natural gas production on federal lands turned out to be the deciding vote on the issue. The Senate’s 51-49 vote today comes after Western business groups, elected officials, tribes and local leaders spent months urging the repeal of the rule. Heitkamp remained undecided up until the vote and has not spoken publicly about her decision at press time. Her colleague in the House, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), however, issued a statement expressing his disappointment with the outcome.

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Activists opposed to an oil and natural gas company’s sponsorship of a Colorado orchestra series used a recent concert to protest fracking, according to a local paper. Before the Boulder Chamber Orchestra’s performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Mackey Auditorium in Boulder on May 5, activists with East Boulder County United, shouted, blew whistles inside the auditorium, and disseminated flyers about fracking. According to the Daily Camera’s coverage, the whistle-blowing led University of Colorado police to send officers to the event.

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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s arrival in Utah yesterday caps weeks of debate among Western lawmakers over the Trump administration’s directive to examine the use of the Antiquities Act over the past two decades to designate the national monuments Zinke will tour. “I challenge any of my colleagues to come down and explain exactly how this 45-day review will uncover information that Western communities somehow missed,” Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) wrote in an April 27 post. “I suspect they will find the widespread record of dissent and nearly unanimous local opposition to the recently designated 1.3 million acre Bears Ears National Monument,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) responded a day later.


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