With Trump in office, the oil and gas industry is moving quickly and furiously to gets its hands on millions of acres of our public lands in the American West and to keep our future locked into fossil fuels.
As we’ve written about before, since January 20, 2017, companies have submitted thousands of “Expressions of Interest” to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. These Expressions of Interest are essentially requests that public lands be auctioned off for drilling and fracking. Once an Expression of Interest is submitted, it more often than not means those public lands will be sold to the oil and gas industry.
In the American West, industry has “expressed interest” in obtaining lands near the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Great Basin National Park of Nevada, the Chaco Canyon region of New Mexico, outside Denver, Colorado, and near other renowned landscapes.
By our count there are over 3,000 Expressions of Interest that have been submitted in the American West. They cover more than two million acres of public lands.
Most are in Nevada, which is odd, because of the 1.4 million acres sold to industry over the years, only 2% are actually producing oil and gas. Of the 31 states that produce oil and gas, Nevada is 28th.
Bizarrely, there’s very little oversight or scrutiny around “Expressions of Interest.”
Anybody can submit an Expression of Interest for anywhere they want. What’s more, companies can actually submit them anonymously and the Bureau of Land Management will still process them and end up selling the lands for fracking (to add insult to the process, these lands are usually sold for $2.00 an acre, less than the price of a Big Mac).
Just last week, we anonymously “expressed interest” in having the Bureau of Land Management auction off Mar-a-Lago for fracking.
— Jeremy J Nichols (@ClimateWest) May 9, 2017
While this lack of transparency and accountability around the Expressions of Interest process is completely absurd, it’s also incredibly alarming.
It means that companies can nominate whatever lands they want and the Bureau of Land Management will abide their requests. It’s a process driven solely by industry demands rather than the interest of the American public.
Under Trump, this means the oil and gas industry is in the driver’s seat when it comes to deciding whether to auction off our public lands for fracking. Put another way, the fate of our western public lands are essentially in the hands of companies like Exxon and BP.
Although that spells disaster for our public lands, it’s also a looming catastrophe for our climate, our clean air and water, and our health.
That’s why WildEarth Guardians is stepping up to call attention to these Expressions of Interest and to start galvanizing public opposition to this corrupt Trump giveaway.
We’re starting by maintaining an interactive map of Expressions of Interest submitted by industry in the American West, which we intend to update at least monthly.
And if you really want to get into the weeds (and be suitably entertained by our amateur video making!), check out the video below. Yes, it’s a bit long, but you can learn how to submit your own crazy Expression of Interest!