News

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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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The Broomfield City Council voted 6-3 on Feb. 28 to indefinitely postpone consideration of a proposed oil and natural gas moratorium. Before the vote, “keep it in the ground” groups 350.org and Food & Water Watch pressured the council to support the moratorium, but their campaign failed. “Relying on a ban is not a good solution,” Broomfield Councilman Mike Shelton said. The two national groups also pushed a series of anti-oil and gas initiatives for the statewide ballot in Colorado last year. They failed to gather enough signatures to make the ballot, however, and this week in Broomfield they struggled to find support from the city’s elected officials and residents.

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Activists who oppose oil and natural gas development have launched a new campaign to save a last-minute Obama administration regulation that’s facing repeal in the U.S. Senate. The Western Leaders Network is trying to defend the “venting and flaring” rule, issued by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management two months before President Barack Obama left office. The group is led by Mark Pearson, board secretary of the San Juan Citizens Alliance (SJCA), and Gwen Lachelt, a former Earthworks activist who now serves as a commissioner in La Plata County, Colo. The SJCA has previously admitted using “street fight” tactics to make oil and gas “as difficult as possible to develop,” and Earthworks has said it’s engaged in a “war on fracking.”


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