In the next five years, millions of acres of America’s public lands and waters, including some national monuments and relatively pristine coastal regions, could be auctioned off for oil and gas development, with little thought for environmental consequences. That’s according to a leaked draft, obtained by The Nation, of the Department of the Interior’s strategic vision: It states that the DOI is committed to achieving “American energy dominance” through the exploitation of “vast amounts” of untapped energy reserves on public lands. Alarmingly, the policy blueprint—a 50-page document—does not once mention climate change or climate science. That’s a clear departure from current policy: The previous plan, covering 2014–18, referred to climate change 46 times and explicitly stated that the department was committed to improving resilience in those communities most directly affected by global warming.
Interior’s new strategic plan fits within a broader effort by the Trump administration to marginalize climate-science research. Last week the Environmental Protection Agency abruptly withdrew two of its scientists and a contractor from a conference in Rhode Island, where they were due to address the impacts of climate change on coastal waters. EPA websites have also been scrubbed of most references to climate change. At Interior and the Department of Energy, scientists have been discouraged from referring to climate change in grant proposals or press releases. Earlier this month Joel Clement, a top policy adviser and climate scientist at DOI, resigned after being transferred to an accounting position, where he was assigned to collect royalties from the oil and gas industry. Clement, who had spoken out about the impacts of climate change on Native American communities in Alaska, alleges that his reassignment was politically motivated.
- “It’s yet another example of an unfortunate regression.”