We can't let Congress and the Trump administration prioritize oil and gas development over the health and safety of national parks and the people who love them.
The past decade has seen unprecedented growth in the domestic oil and gas sector. There are now more than 1.2 million active oil and gas wells in the United States, stretching from the mountains of Appalachia and the cypress swamps of Florida across the grasslands of the northern Great Plains and the red rock landscapes of the Southwest and into the coastal waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico.
This growth has outpaced our ability to prevent damage to nearby lands, including national parks. As a result, significant damage has already occurred. Park landscapes have become industrialized — fragmenting habitat, harming air and water quality, and degrading the experience for park visitors.
Yet the Trump administration and the current Congress have been working to systematically dismantle existing safeguards that reduce the harm of energy development on national parks.
As a result, lawmakers and administration officials could put dozens of commonsense policies on the chopping block, causing serious harm to our national parks.
Oil and gas companies maintain a historical right to drill within the boundaries of more than 40 national parks, including Everglades, Cuyahoga Valley and Mesa Verde National Parks. The National Park Service updated its rules to ensure that drilling does not damage park resources. But those rules are now targeted for review and possible rescission by the Department of the Interior, and have also been targeted for reversal by Congress.
In 2008, the federal government approved dozens of oil and gas leases directly on the borders of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and in the surrounding landscape. However, a powerful local backlash forced their cancellation and led to improvements in the way drilling is conducted near national parks and other important conservation and recreational areas. Congress has already overturned one key policy for protecting large landscapes from thoughtless industrialization, the Bureau of Land Management’s “Planning 2.0” rule, and the Trump administration has targeted other reforms for reversal as well.
The oil and gas boom hit early and hit hard in the northern Great Plains, and as a result, Theodore Roosevelt National Park — known as the “birthplace of conservation” — is now nearly surrounded by oil and gas wells, many visible from its borders. Impairment of the park will grow worse if the Environmental Protection Agency approves a massive new oil refinery proposed just three miles from the park’s border.
- The 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill brought tremendous environmental and economic damage throughout the Gulf of Mexico region, which is home to 10 national park sites, including Gulf Islands National Seashore and Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. The government put regulations in place to prevent future spills, and the administration is now targeting these rules to weaken or rescind them. The administration is also moving to allow drilling off the Atlantic coast, putting parks from Acadia National Park to Cape Hatteras National Seashore in harm’s way.
- Extensive oil and gas development along the Rocky Mountain Front and the Upper Green River Basin has increased air pollution in Rocky Mountain and Grand Teton National Parks. Tighter air pollution regulations for oil and gas emissions are under attack by the Trump administration and by Congress.
These are just a few of the many regulations that could be weakened or reversed under our current federal leadership. And Congress could make things even worse if it succeeds in enacting legislation that:
- Eases the construction of oil and gas pipelines across national park lands
- Attempts to restrict federal authority to regulate oil and gas development, leasing, and environmental safeguards
- “Streamlines” oil and gas permitting required through a number of statutes, reducing opportunities for public oversight
NPCA is addressing each of these threats by mobilizing advocates, engaging the administration and Congress, and preparing for litigation.
Without a forceful and sustained response to these threats, oil and gas development will continue to degrade our national parks and may even accelerate. Please stand with NPCA and stop policymakers from spoiling our national parks!
UPDATE: More Than 8,000 Comments Sent to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
Park advocates submitted comments telling the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to protect coastal national parks and to not include Atlantic or Pacific leases in its new five-year plan.
Nearly 10,000 Spoke Up for Theodore Roosevelt NP
National park advocates nationwide asked the Bureau of Land Management to defer an oil and gas lease proposed on the boundary of the park's North Unit.
More than 17,000 Comments Submitted to Oppose Offshore Plan
National park advocates sent thousands of comments to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management urging it not to open more waters off national parks to oil and gas drilling.
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