President Trump told an audience in Salt Lake City in January that he was shrinking the size of two national monuments in the state so that Utah's natural resources were no longer “controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington.”
But in the months leading up to that proclamation on the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments, Trump's own political appointees back east were themselves deciding what should be done with public lands now under their control.
Documents recently released by the Interior Department under the Freedom of Information Act on Monday reveal Trump officials' intentions: More logging, more fishing and more ranching.
For example, The Post's Juliet Eilperin reports that Katherine MacGregor, acting assistant secretary of lands and minerals management, asked in July 2017 what would happen if Trump reversed President Barack Obama's expansion of Oregon's Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.
Bureau of Land Management acting deputy director John Ruhs suggested it would be good news for loggers. “Previous timber sale planning and development in the [expansion area] can be immediately resumed,” Ruhs wrote in response.
And two months later, the staffer leading that national monument review, Randal Bowman, suggested deleting language that said that most fishing vessels near another national monument considered for reduction, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in the Atlantic Ocean, “generated 5% or less of their annual landings from within the monument.”
The reason? That language “undercuts the case for the ban being harmful.”
The emails show more candid conversations than ordinary FOIA releases because the Interior Department sent out the unredacted correspondence by accident. “Interior’s FOIA office sent out a batch of documents to journalists and advocacy groups on July 16 that they later removed online,” Eilperin wrote.
Democrats took the opportunity to lambast Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. "The fact that the Trump administration places no value on the booming recreation economy that generates over $887 billion annually is no surprise to those of us who have been watching their shameful record of exploiting our public lands over the last two years," Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement.
The release is sure to fan the flames of environmentalists, Native Americans and others angry with Trump's decision in Utah. The Trump administration's removal of hundreds of thousands of acres of land from special protection was one of the more tangible environmental rollbacks of Obama-policy policy.
From Friends of the Earth:
.@SecretaryZinke's dismissal of evidence showing the benefits of national monuments proves what we've known all along: This administration sold off our public lands to benefit Trump's Big Oil allieshttps://t.co/cmDSFANU9c— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) July 23, 2018
From Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility:
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— California vs. Trump: The Trump administration is expected to announce this week its proposed revision of Obama-era auto emissions standards, and will look to repeal California’s authority to regulate its own pollution levels. “The proposed revamp would also put the brakes on federal rules to boost fuel efficiency into the next decade,” Bloomberg News reports. “Instead it will cap federal fuel economy requirements at the 2020 level, which under federal law must be at least a 35-mile-per-gallon fleet average, rather than letting them rise to roughly 50 mpg by 2025 as envisioned in the plan left behind by Obama.”
— Endangered species out of defense bill: Lawmakers decided to remove provisions that would restrict the Endangered Species Act from the final version of a defense authorization bill, The Hill reports. A Republican aide to the House Armed Services Committee told reporters Monday that provisions that would block protections for the greater sage grouse and lesser prairie chicken were not included in the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act that both the Senate and House will vote on.
— Ex-White House aide launching climate venture: A former top energy adviser in the Trump White House, George David Banks, is leading a new climate group with other Republicans, E&E News reports. Banks will direct the Center for Energy Security and Climate Economics, which will operate under the think tank American Council for Capital Formation, with the aim of staking out a GOP position on an issue few in the party want to even acknowledge.
Banks's views: One of them is that "[p]oorer and richer states shouldn’t be held to the same greenhouse gas standards," as the former Trump aide wrote in an op-ed in The Hill.
— Onward with ANWR: The Bureau of Land Management is moving forward with planning for seismic testing on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), with the agency recently publishing a new planning page on its website.
According to a document released under the Freedom of Information Act, the BLM commissioned a fast environmental review of the impact of leasing for oil and gas drilling in the area. Republicans are eager to get through the environmental review process before a Democrat has a chance to pump the brakes on the project should Trump lose the White House in 2020.
— In the East, a deluge of rainfall... At least 10 million people are at risk this week under flood watches and warnings issued because of heavy rain across the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic, USA Today reports. The National Weather Service warned about “potentially dangerous, even life-threatening” conditions over the next few days.
***A potentially dangerous, even life threatening, situation is setting up for much of the Mid-Atlantic.***— NWS MARFC (@NWSMARFC) July 23, 2018
After a weekend of 2-7 " rain for much of the Mid-Atlantic, an additional 3-5 " of rain is expected over the next 3 (three) days. pic.twitter.com/XtfFjay56D
…and on the West, extreme heat: California’s electric grid operator is urging residents to conserve power as extreme heat continues in the Southwest, straining natural gas supplies. A “Flex-Alert” will be issued statewide for power conservation from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. The National Weather Service on Monday had issued excessive heat warnings in southern Arizona and in parts of California, Utah and New Mexico throughout the week.
— How climate change can affect suicide rates: New research from Stanford University and University of California-Berkeley has found that global warming will lead to up to 21,000 additional suicides in the United States and Mexico through 2050. The study published in the journal Nature Climate Change found that for every increase of 1.8 degrees in temperature Fahrenheit, there will be a .7 percent suicide rate spike in the United States and a 2.1 percent increase in Mexico, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
— Hack attack: Russian hackers broke into U.S. electric utility control rooms last year in a “giant and long-running campaign,” the Wall Street Journal reports, one that is likely ongoing. The hackers breached secure networks with “relative ease,” per the report, by hacking into networks of vendors with links with power companies, Homeland Security officials told the Wall Street Journal. “They got to the point where they could have thrown switches” and impacted power, chief of industrial-control-system analysis for DHS Jonathan Homer said. DHS did not name the victims, though officials said there were hundreds, including some companies who may not yet know they were hacked, per the report.
— The road ahead for Tesla: The electric automaker clarified reports that it had asked suppliers for discounts on payments made for 2016, saying it was for “ongoing, long-term projects to improve its future cash flow,” according to Reuters. A spokesperson for the company said Tesla had asked fewer than 10 suppliers for a discount, which would benefit “future cash flows, but not impact our ability to achieve profitability in Q3,” according to the report.
- The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources holds a hearing on assessing uses of coal.
- The House Science, Space and Technology Committee holds a hearing on urban air mobility.
- The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy holds a hearing on “Legislation to Authorize a Pilot Project to Commercialize the Strategic Petroleum Reserve."
- The House Oversight Subcommittee on the Interior, Energy and Environment holds a hearing on preserving opportunities for grazing on federal land.
- The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs holds a legislative hearing.
- The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a business meeting on various pending nominations.
- The Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee holds a hearing to examine factors that impact global oil prices.
- The Center for Strategic and International Studies holds an event on the EIA’s International Energy Outlook 2018.
- The House Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on “Management Crisis at the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and Implications for Recovery” on Wednesday.
— A belated happy birthday to Mei Xiang: The National Zoo’s female giant panda turned 20 over the weekend.