How the Trump Administration Plans to Open Millions of Acres of Public Land for Drilling

How the Trump Administration Plans to Open Millions of Acres of Public Land for Drilling

Whenever the Trump administration has to pick a side, it consistently chooses to support businesses over the environment. As a result, Trump and his appointees have worked steadily to free corporations as much as possible from having to follow environmental regulations. For the Environmental Protection Agency, that’s meant reversing dozens of restrictions like how much pollutants companies are allowed to dump in rivers or how often they have to check to make sure they aren’t pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The administration is taking a different tactic with public lands. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) overseas 247.3 million acres, an eighth of the U.S.’s entire landmass. Its mission is “to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.” Naturally, the Trump administration is now trying to essentially eliminate it—the Department of the Interior, which oversees the BLM, has proposed scattering 300 employees at the bureau’s DC office across the country and relocating the headquarters to Grand Junction, Colorado, with a skeleton crew of 27. In a statement celebrating the announcement, Colorado’s Republican senator Cory Gardner said, “Relocating the Bureau of Land Management to the Western Slope of Colorado will bring the bureau’s decision makers closer to the people they serve and the public lands they manage.”

But 97 percent of BLM employees are already spread throughout the states with public lands overseen by the bureau. Those field experts are supposed to advise the staff in DC, who then work with Congress and other agencies, which are also in DC. Anne Shields, former Chief of Staff of the Department of Interior under the Clinton administration, told GQ, “Some of the highest level employees are in Washington: they help to make policy, they work on Congressional liaison issues, they do a lot of interagency work. There always has been a need for the base level people in Washington.” She added, “The point is to reduce their influence and leave at all to the political appointees.”

As the acting head of the BLM, William Perry Pendley has never been confirmed by Congress. He’s an anti-government zealot who, in a 2016 article for the National Review, wrote, “The Founding Fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold. After all, jurisdiction over real property, that is, property law, was given to the states.” Meanwhile, Senator Gardner told Colorado Public Radio, “I think that if you’re a public land employee, and you don’t want to live and work in the public lands that you manage and oversee, then maybe you should find a different way to work.” He denied that the move would lead to a “brain drain” of long-time BLM employees who would rather leave the bureau than relocate across the country, but if it did, he suggested it was for the best.

That’s the goal, of course. A brain drain is exactly what happened when the administration decided to move two of the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) scientific agencies to Kansas City earlier this year. More than 500 employees were given 30 days to decide if they would upend their lives in DC to move across the country, and two-thirds chose to resign instead. And White House chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney flat out admitted that this was part of the president’s efforts to “drain the swamp.” At a gala in August, Mulvaney said, “It’s nearly impossible to fire a federal worker. I know that because a lot of them work for me, and I’ve tried . . . By simply saying to people, ‘You know what, we’re going to take you outside the bubble, outside the Beltway, outside this liberal haven of Washington, D.C., and move you out in the real part of the country,’ and they quit—what a wonderful way to sort of streamline government, and do what we haven’t been able to do for a long time.”

Source : Luke Darby Link

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