Five National Parks That Could Be Threatened Under The Romney Energy Plan

By Jessica Goad

Mitt Romney recently released his energy plan, which focuses extensively on turning energy development on federal public lands over to the states.  If states are determined to aggressively push fossil energy development, giving oversight of mining and drilling to them could put some of our special places at risk. As the New York Times put it:

The purposes [of federal public lands], under established law, are various: recreation, preservation, resource development. States, as a rule, tend to be interested mainly in resource development. In the energy future envisioned by Mr. Romney, that is precisely what would prevail.

Here are five places that could be at risk under a Romney energy plan:

–  Grand Canyon National Park:  Even though Interior Secretary Ken Salazar protected one million acres around the Grand Canyon from mining last January, the decision applied only to new claims.  About 3,500 existing uranium claims may still be valid, which could result in up to 11 uranium mines on Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands near the canyon.  Under a Romney energy plan, the decision to permit these new mines would be made by the state of Arizona and under its rules and regulations.  Arizona Governor Jan Brewer would likely give the go-ahead to new mining, as she called Salazar’s decision in January “excessive and unnecessary regulation.”  Watch a short documentary about the issue:

–  Bryce Canyon National Park:  A strip coal mine is currently being proposed on Bureau of Land Management lands ten miles from the park, but the National Park Service warned that it would “likely result in negative impacts to park resources and visitors” and especially to air quality and scenery.  Under the Romney energy plan, the state of Utah would be responsible for permitting and overseeing the new mine.  Chances are it would be permitted, as Utah already gave the go-ahead to a coal mine right next to the proposed one.  Additionally, in 2010, Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) accepted a $10,000 political donation from the company interested in developing the new mine.  Watch a short video about the issue:

–  Arches National Park:  The final hours of the George W. Bush presidency saw the issuance of 77 oil and gas leases very close to national parks, including Arches. In January 2009, new Interior Secretary Ken Salazar canceled the leases, saying that they had been rushed.  But that decision is not permanent — if and the oil and gas industry proposed drilling there again, these and other leases on the edges of Arches could move forward.  And the state of Utah would probably accept those industry demands, since its governor and legislature this year called for title to all 30 million acres of public lands to “help foster economic development.”

–  Theodore Roosevelt National Park:  North Dakota is ground zero for the Bakken oil boom, which is pressing up against this national park where President Theodore Roosevelt developed much of his conservation ethic.  Already drilling rigs can be seen from within the park.  And even more could be built if a proposed bridge is permitted that could open up even more of the adjacent Little Missouri Grasslands (managed by the Forest Service) to oil and gas drilling.  If such drilling decisions were turned over to North Dakota, they would likely be approved, considering the boon that oil has been to the state’s economy.

–  Grand Teton National Park: This park borders the Bridger-Teton National Forest, home to significant natural gas resources.  Currently the Forest Service is determining whether to allow the drilling of up to 136 natural gas wells on its lands, which could have a number of impacts on the park.  Grand Teton National Park’s superintendent expressed concerns about “degradation of visibility” from the project, and other officials have worried about impacts on the park’s wildlife.  If this decision were turned over to the state under the Romney energy plan, the project could potentially go forward. Wyoming Governor Matt Mead has stated that the company has “valid existing rights.”  Watch a short documentary about the issue:

Even more worryingly, Romney’s plan is extremely vague when it comes to what might happen inside of parks.  The text of the plan says that “lands specially designated off-limits” are exempt from being turned over to the states. But what exactly does this mean?  Does it mean places that are currently set off limits by law, like national parks and wilderness areas?  Or does it mean only places that a Romney/Ryan administration would set off limits, thereby undoing decades’ worth of land protections?

Would Romney go so far as to try to drill in our national parks?

Jessica is the Manager of Research and Outreach for the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

4 Responses to Five National Parks That Could Be Threatened Under The Romney Energy Plan

  1. Andy says:

    That’s a LOT of IFs, Coulds, Mays etc.. This is all speculation… until you get your facts together and know what you’re posting… keep the speculation crap to yourself. I like your site… and agree with most of what you do… but for you to say that Romney has or will have any more negative influence over this country than the idiot who is in that position now has done and will do… is asinine. Stay out of politics!

  2. Gail says:

    Andy, ClimateProgress, if anything, is the premier location for science and politics to meet. If they don’t meet more regularly and in many more places, it’s not just the parks that are in jeopardy. Or perhaps I should say, that because science and policy haven’t met, except here and in few other furtive encounters not widely known, that we are already doomed to catastrophic climate change.

    On another topic, EVERY park is under threat from not just drilling, mining and logging – and climate change – but from air pollution, which is killing the trees from Joshua Tree National Park to the Smoky Mountains in Appalachia.

    2009 Air Quality Report for National Parks dissected here:

    breakdown for 2011 and EPA Standards, keeping min mind 40 ppb is the threshold above which vegetation is damaged:

    Sequoia National Park, Calif.: 98 ppb (unhealthy for everyone)
    Joshua Tree National Park, Calif. 91 ppb (unhealthy for everyone)
    Great Smoky Mountains National Park, N.C.: 83 ppb (unhealthy for sensitive groups)
    Big Bend National Park, Texas: 80 ppb (unhealthy for sensitive groups)
    Yosemite National Park, Calif.: 79 ppb (unhealthy for sensitive groups)
    Mojave National Preserve, Calif.: 78 ppb (unhealthy for sensitive groups)
    Rocky Mountain National Park, Colo.: 77 ppb (unhealthy for sensitive groups)”

  3. Turboblocke says:

    The rest of the world is waiting with anticipation to find out if the USA does have the best President that(FF)money can buy.

  4. Brent says:

    Exactly. You could pretty much say the same thing about obama or anyone as far as that matters…I bet she drives a car and heats and cools her home, too. And I don’t mean with solar power.