Earlier this week, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt reiterated the Trump administration’s commitment to restoring the role of states in the regulation of water. An executive order issued by President Trump on Feb. 28 directs the EPA Administrator and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works to review, and rescind or revise, the Clean Water Rule, also known as the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS).
Vice President Mike Pence reiterated the Trump administration’s commitment to American energy development while touring a coal mine in Montana last Friday. “I just want to assure you that this administration is absolutely determined to continue to expand the opportunities to develop American energy in an environmentally responsible way,” Pence said after visiting a mine on the Crow Indian Reservation on May 12.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.