We Now Have Proof That the White House Shrunk National Monuments for the Coal/Oil Industry

In December, the Trump administration spat in the face of the conservation movement when it took the unprecedented step of majorly downsizing two national monuments in Utah: Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante.  Although the administration never came out and said, “We’re doing this to benefit oil, gas and coal businesses!” many suspected that that was probably the case.

Now the New York Times can confirm that mining and drilling were the Interior Department’s chief concern when shrinking the monuments. After collecting thousands of pages from the government via an open records request, it’s clear that these pursuits were the main motivation for considering a reduction in monument size from the start.

Before the government even formally began its review of the monuments, the Interior Department was passing around a map with proposed boundaries that “would resolve all known mineral conflicts” and allow energy corporations to extract resources from requested areas.

That’s at odds with what Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said publicly about the issue last May. “We [the Interior Department] also have a pretty good idea of, certainly the oil and gas potential – not much!” said Zinke. “So Bears Ears isn’t really about oil and gas.”

Per the newly available records, Zinke and his team were most definitely crunching the numbers on the oil, gas and coal supplies within these protected lands. Their own documents don’t seem to indicate that “not much” energy potential was found in these areas. Certainly, there had to be some reason why 85 percent of the land in the Bears Ears monument was unpreserved as of December.

Further documentation shows that Interior staffers met multiple times with a uranium company to discuss uranium mining potential at Bears Ears, as well.

As for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the motivations to shrink this land by over 45 percent are similar. One memo referred to a section known as the Kaiparowits plateau as one of the largest untapped coal supplies in the country. It estimated that over 11 billion tons of coal could be mined if the government surrendered the land’s protected status.

You guessed it – thanks to the Trump administration, now much of the Kaiparowits plateau no longer is included in the monument-protected land.

Another revelation from the NYT’s document request is that Senator Orrin Hatch’s name is all over the papers. For good reason, too: he’s the guy who first implored the White House to shrink the monument size, allegedly to benefit the state.

As Hatch explains, some of the monument land had previously been designated as “trust land” which meant that companies could drill and mine on the land and the proceeds would go to Utah’s public school system. Hatch wanted to see that land taken out of the monuments so that schools could potentially profit.

However you feel about that, it should be alarming that the government not only gave back the trust land, but FAR more land than Hatch and the schools requested. In other words, the energy corporations can now choose from a whole bunch of new land that no longer has federal protection, even areas that won’t benefit the schools.

We have a White House and Interior Department that are working diligently to give gifts to dirty energy corporations at the direct expense of our national treasures and protected land. Shamefully, it took a lawsuit and records request to ascertain the true reason for shrinking the monuments. Spread the word: Zinke and Trump have chosen a side, and it’s not the side of the American people.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

56 comments

Paulo R
Paulo R3 months ago

ty

SEND
Paulo R
Paulo R3 months ago

ty

SEND
KimJ M
KimJ M3 months ago

Tfs

SEND
KimJ M
KimJ M3 months ago

Tfs

SEND
KimJ M
KimJ M3 months ago

Tfs

SEND
Angel W
Past Member 3 months ago

thanks

SEND
Danii P
Danii P3 months ago

thank you for sharing

SEND
Karen K
Karen K3 months ago

So typical of him and of Republicans... yet they were the ones who'd been supporters of the environment at one time. Greed and fossil fuels...

SEND
sharon b
sharon b3 months ago

I wonder what the solution to Trump is. Will impeachment help? We still have the vice President who is bad as well as the Republican majorities. Everyone VOTE VOTE VOTE!!!

SEND
Barbara B
Barbara B3 months ago

I suspect the ones who will benefit the most is Hatch and his cronies, not the schools.

SEND