Press Release Jan 7, 2016

Groups Support Stronger Rules for Oil Drilling in National Parks

Long-Overdue Rules Govern Development of Privately-Held Mineral Rights beneath 42 National Park Units

WASHINGTON – The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and other groups submitted comments last week on proposed updates to federal rules for oil drilling on private lands within national parks.

The proposed changes would update the National Park Service’s (NPS) 9B rules, which govern the development of privately-owned mineral rights beneath national parks. Privately-owned mineral rights, known as “split estates,” exist where the federal government was unable to purchase mineral rights at the time of the park’s creation.

While the existing regulations are intended to help minimize the impact of developing those mineral rights, they fall short in many ways. The proposed updates include closing loopholes that exempt more than 60% of existing wells in parks from regulation, as well as lifting an outdated cap on performance bonds, which leave taxpayers on the hook for oil well cleanup costs in the event of an operator default.

“No one wants to see oil drilling in national parks, but where it can’t be prevented, there must be sufficient protections in place to ensure the impacts these operations have on our national parks are minimized,” said Nicholas Lund, NPCA’s Oil and Gas Program Manager. “With ongoing interest in developing domestic energy sources, the focus on exploring untapped deposits like those within national parks will only continue to grow, making it imperative the administration adopts these updates as quickly as possible.”

The 9B rules, unchanged since they were established in 1978, impact 12 national parks with active oil and gas operations, including Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. The updated rules would also apply to an additional 30 national parks with privately-owned mineral rights but no active drilling, including Grand Teton and Mammoth Cave national parks.

The comments – submitted jointly by NPCA as well as the National Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, Park Rangers for Our Lands, and the Ohio Environmental Council – voice support for the NPS proposal, but seek improvements to ensure the protection of wildlife and park visitors. Specifically, the groups request the NPS to consider buying out private mineral rights in parks, requiring developers to adhere to best management practices for their operations, and working harder to ensure parks will not be harmed by drilling operations outside park boundaries.

Click here to view the submitted comments.


About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit

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