Washington, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) in a hearing to examine federal permitting for energy and resource infrastructure projects criticized Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke’s ongoing actions to hand over public lands to extractive industries instead of ensuring taxpayers get a fair deal.
During the hearing, Senator Cantwell stated that “Secretary Zinke has been very abrupt in his actions at Department of Interior – it seems like it’s just about whether you want permission to drill, and if so, then you get the keys to whatever public lands.”
“In less than a year, the Department has left $750 million in taxpayer royalties on the table, and the Secretary has abandoned his obligation to stop natural gas waste,” said Senator Cantwell. “He has ditched sage-grouse plans negotiated with the States. He has ditched master leasing plans. He’s skipped public comment periods, illegally suspended regulations, and turned the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on its head.”
Last week, President Trump, following the advice of Secretary Zinke, moved to strip protections from 2 million acres of public land in Utah— the largest rollback of land protection in U.S. history.
“The Washington Post confirmed over the weekend that Energy Fuels Resources petitioned Interior to open up Bears Ears to uranium mining. And Secretary Zinke has proposed even more rollbacks,” said Senator Cantwell.
During his confirmation hearing in January, Secretary Zinke said he was “committed to ensuring that the American taxpayers get a fair return.” During the hearing, Senator Cantwell noted that “Since then, the Department has reinstated outdated low-priced coal leasing."
“The Secretary has created the Royalty Policy Committee stacked with partisan members, without a single public interest voice. So it seems to me, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.”