Trump admin trashing natural treasures for polluter profits

BLM Nevada

When U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke thinks of the roughly 500 million acres of public lands under his control, he thinks about tapping the fossil fuels that lie beneath. In an interview with Reuters, Zinke said that conservation is secondary to his agency’s mission and that energy production should trump environmental protections. Indeed, he is aggressively pushing policy changes to boost drilling and mining on public lands. Despite the fact that U.S. energy production increased substantially during the Obama administration and that renewable energy offers a cleaner path on public lands, Zinke backs President Trump’s push to overturn Obama-era environmental safeguards for the sake of ramping up coal, oil, and gas extraction on land and at sea. Why? Because, according to Zinke, fossil fuel industry jobs matter more than protecting public lands for recreation, wildlife habitat, public health, and clean air and water. As Zinke puts it: “If you don’t have an economy, you can’t afford to put in the environmental protections you need.” (That line probably went over well with the fossil fuel lobbyists Zinke lunched with recently.) But Zinke should realize that protecting polluter profits is not the true mission of his agency—or at least it wasn’t until the Trump administration got its hands on it.   

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