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Albuquerque New Mexico downtown aerial view.

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New Mexico business leaders are pushing back against a campaign led by environmental activists to save a last-minute regulation from the Obama administration targeting oil and natural development. The New Mexico Business Coalition says the “venting and flaring” rule imposed late last year “clouds the regulatory environment” for one of the state’s most important industries. The rule, finalized by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) two months before President Barack Obama left office, adds to existing state and federal regulations that limit methane emissions. “An ax, not a scalpel, is needed on BLM’s venting and flaring rule,” the group says.

U.S. Court of Appeals, 10th Circuit

In a victory for local officials and energy producers in the West, the Trump administration confirmed this week that a federal regulation for hydraulic fracturing on public lands won’t be imposed on top of existing state rules that already apply. The federal hydraulic fracturing regulation, issued by U.S. Bureau of Land Management two years ago during the Obama administration, was struck down by a federal judge in 2016. Obama officials appealed, but this week the Trump administration told the court it would no longer contest the case and plans to withdraw the regulation.

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Two lawmakers from North Dakota, the second largest oil-producing state in the nation, are turning up the heat on the U.S. Senate to repeal a last-minute Obama administration regulation targeting energy development on federal lands. At the same time, a national pro-business group is calling on the Senate to act, launching a multi-media advertising campaign targeting North Dakota and five other states.

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“Domestic oil output is expected increase to an average of 9.7 million barrels per day next year led by increased drilling in the Permian shale region of Texas and New Mexico and from rising production in the Gulf of Mexico, breaking the U.S. total annual production record set back in 1970,” said Howard Gruenspecht, acting head of the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The new outlook increased the 2017 and 2018 forecasts for U.S. oil production by 200,000 barrels per day.

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Agriculture groups, conservation officials and lawmakers say the expected repeal of the Obama administration’s last-minute planning regulation for federal lands is welcome news for the West. Obama officials claimed the “Planning 2.0” regulation would create a “more streamlined process” for federal land-use decisions and still leave room for state and local interests. Environmental groups supported the changes, but critics said the planning regulation would actually centralize more decision-making authority in Washington, D.C.

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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D) expressed support today for moving U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) headquarters from the nation’s capital to the West. The two leading Colorado Democrats were responding to a proposal from U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who has been calling for the federal agency’s relocation since January. “We should go get ’em,” Hickenlooper said today at a panel discussion in Denver. “I think there’s too much concentration of decision making in Washington already.”

U.S. Capitol Washington D.C.

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A controversial overhaul of federal land-use policies, approved less than two months before President Barack Obama left office, is headed for repeal after a key U.S. Senate vote today. In a major victory for state and local officials, farmers, ranchers and energy producers in the West, the Senate voted 51-48 to overturn “Planning 2.0,” a regulation finalized in December by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Planning 2.0 would allow the BLM “to maximize its decision-making power while effectively sidelining our Western states,” Senate Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said today.


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