Feds eye new methane rules for public lands

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Feds aim to reduce methane emissions from natural gas production on public lands.

Common sense measures to help meet climate targets

Staff Report

Proposed federal rules could help slow the release of potent heat-trapping methane emissions from gas production on public and Native American lands.

Between 2009 and 2014, enough natural gas was lost through venting, flaring and leaks to power more than five million homes for a year. States, Tribes and federal taxpayers also lose royalty revenues when natural gas is wasted. According to a 2010 Government Accountability Office report, taxpayers lose up to $23 million annually in royalty revenue. Continue reading

Congressman plots public lands giveaway

Gotta have one good camping trip every summer!

Some of Utah’s favorite public lands playgrounds could be privatized under a bill to be introduced in Congress this week. @bberwyn photo.

Fracking in national parks?

Staff Report

Given the extreme anti-federal positions gaining traction around the West, it’s probably not surprising that a new bill by advanced Utah Republican Congressman Rob Bishop was presented as a moderate proposal for public lands compromise by some news outlets.

But his bill, due to be introduced this week, is only moderate when compared to the armed Oregon takeover of public lands by trespassers. By any other measure, it’s one of the most extreme anti-environmental bills that has ever been considered in Washington, D.C. Continue reading

Coal billionaire reaching into taxpayer pockets with refund request for defunct mine

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A federal handout to Bill Koch?

Feds propose multimillion dollar fossil fuel rebate

Staff Report

Against a backdrop of falling coal prices and the recent bankruptcy declaration of Arch Coal, the federal government is proposing to refund as much as $14 million dollars to Bill Koch. The billionaire claims he is entitled to the money because of “adverse geologic and engineering conditions” at the now-closed Oxbow Mine, near Somerset, along the Gunnison River in western Colorado.

The proposed refund would be structured as a royalty rate reduction from 8 percent to 5 percent, retroactive to 2012, according to a December letter from the federal Bureau of Land Management to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. Continue reading

2015 in Review: Public lands

Energy issues drive public lands debates

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Rocky Mountain National Park turned 100 years old in 2015.

Staff Report

The battle over fossil fuel exploitation on public lands heated up in 2015, as environmental advocates launched an aggressive #keepitintheground campaign aimed at convincing the Obama administration to stop issuing leases and permits for oil and gas drilling. But along with the political and environmental battles, there were also some feel-good stories. Right here in Colorado, for example, two beloved tracts of land administered by the National Park Service celebrated centennials. Read more about those birthdays here.

It was a big year for public lands preservation. With Congress gridlocked on many issues, President Obama took the initiative to set aside hundreds of thousands of acres as national monuments under the Antiquities Act, including Browns Canyon, in Colorado. Read more about the creation of Browns Canyon National Monument in these Summit Voice stories, and learn more about President Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act here. Continue reading

Wildlife advocates question federal sage grouse maps

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Proposed federal conservation plans for greater sage-grouse have sliced and diced important habitat, conservation advocates say. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Report says fragmented habitat isn’t adequate for protection of species

Staff Report

FRISCO — After a detailed mapping analysis maps, wildlife conservation advocates say the federal government downsized important habitat for sage grouse.

The findings are outlined in a new report released by WildEarth Guardians. It compares protected areas to remaining key population hotspots. Almost 20 million acres designated as Priority Areas for Conservation disappeared from the Priority Habitat areas proposed in U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management sage grouse plans. Continue reading

Feds to hold ‘listening sessions’ on public land coal royalties

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The public will have a chance to weigh in on federal coal mining leasing practices.

Changes to leasing rules would benefit U.S. taxpayers

Staff Report

FRISCO — After a string of reports and investigations made it clear that taxpayers are not getting their fair share of money from coal mining on federally managed public lands, the Department of Interior last week announced it will hold a series of “listening sessions” around the country on the federal coal program.

The stakes are high — in fiscal year 2012, about 42 percent of the 1.05 billion tons of coal produced in the United States came from coal tracts leased under the federal coal leasing program.

One report from an energy think tank concluded that the federal treasury may have missed out on as much as $29 billion over the past 30 years because of the way energy companies and federal land managers account for those royalties. Another recent report from the Government Accountability Office found that the federal government’s accounting system does not “provide reasonable assurance that oil and gas are accurately measured.” Continue reading

BLM’s California fracking plan challenged in court

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A lawsuit in federal court could delay new oil and gas development in California. Photo via BLM.

Lawsuit say agency’s plan violates federal environmental laws

Staff Report

FRISCO — A federal plan to open more public lands in California to energy development will be tested in court, with Earthjustice filing a lawsuit to block fracking across California’s Central and San Joaquin valleys; the southern Sierra Nevada; and in Santa Barbara; San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties along California’s central coast.

At issue is a Bureau of Land Management resource plan for the region that has already been called into question in 2013, when a federal judge ruled that the BLM violated the law when it issued oil leases in Monterey County without considering the environmental risks of fracking. Continue reading

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