July 17, 2017
The Honorable Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior
c/o Office the Executive Secretariat – Attention: Regulatory Reform
U.S. Department of the Interior
1859 C Street NW, Mail stop 7328
Washington, DC 20240
Subject: Comments on Document # DOI-2017-0003-0007
Dear Secretary Zinke:
I am writing to you on behalf of over 1,300 members of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks (Coalition), who collectively represent more than 30,000 years of national park management experience. The Coalition studies, educates, and advocates for the preservation of America’s public lands. Our membership includes former National Park Service (NPS) employees who have worked in or managed units of the National Park System (parks) outside of Alaska where non-federal oil and gas rights occur.
The purpose of this letter is to submit comments on the Department’s review of the NPS regulations found at 36 CFR Part 9, Subpart B (“9B regulations”), which govern the exercise of non-federal oil and gas rights in units of the National Park System outside of Alaska. The current NPS regulations were published as a final rule at 81 FR 77972 on November 4, 2016. The 2016 regulations were an update of previous NPS oil and gas regulation promulgated in 1978. As indicated in the June 22, 2017 Federal Register notice, the current regulatory review could result in the “change or repeal” of the listed regulations. As a national park advocacy group, we will focus our comments on the NPS 9B regulations.
The Purpose of Parks and the NPS Authority to Regulate Non-Federal Oil and Gas Activities
The fundamental purpose of “units” of the National Park System (i.e., “parks”), as well as the NPS authority to promulgate regulations for managing parks, is provided in the statute commonly known as the NPS Organic Act (54 U.S.C. 100101 et seq.). The Organic Act directs the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the NPS, to promote and regulate the use of the National Park System by means and measures that conform to
“the fundamental purpose of the System units, which purpose is to conserve the scenery, natural and historic objects, and wild life in the System units and to provide for the enjoyment of the scenery, natural and historic objects, and wild life in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
This statutory purpose of parks is often referred to as the NPS “conservation mandate.” That mandate is in no way diminished in parks where non-federal oil and gas activities are authorized. The Organic Act also grants the NPS the authority to promulgate regulations “necessary or proper for the use and management of System units” (54 U.S.C. 100751). This includes the authority to regulate the exercise of non-federal oil and gas rights within park boundaries for the purpose of protecting the resources and values administered by the NPS.
The NPS authority to manage non-federal regulate oil and gas activities within parks is well established and has been affirmed by Federal courts. For example, the U.S. District Court and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recognized the NPS authority to promulgate the original 9B regulations in a case contesting the application of the regulations at Padre Island National Seashore. See Dunn-McCampbell Royalty Interest v. National Park Service, 964 F. Supp. 1125 (S.D. Tex. 1995), and Dunn-McCampbell Royalty Interest v. National Park Service, 630 F.3d 431 (5th Cir. 2011). Other courts have also consistently recognized NPS’s authority to regulate non-federal interests within units of the National Park System. See, e.g., United States v. Vogler, 859 F.2d 638 (9th Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 1006 (1989); United States v. Garfield County, 122 F. Supp. 2d 1201 (D. Utah 2000). See also Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance v. Bureau of Land Management, 425 F. 3d 735, 746-47 (10th Cir. 2005).
In addition, the enabling legislation for several NPS units contains specific provisions authorizing the regulation of non-federal oil and gas rights, which are noted in the authority section of the proposed rule. For example, a unique provision exists under the Big Cypress National Preserve Addition Act of 1988, which authorizes rules and regulations governing exploration, development, and production of non-Federal interests in oil and gas located within the boundaries of the Preserve and the Addition, and that such rules and regulations may be made by appropriate amendment to or in substitution of the 9B regulations.
Note: System units in Alaska have generally been subject to NPS regulations governing the exercise of non-federal oil and gas rights within parks. See Sturgeon v. Masica, 768 F.3d 1066, 1077-78 (9th Cir. 2014). However, the Ninth Circuit opinion was recently vacated by the Supreme Court and remanded for further consideration. Sturgeon v. Frost, 136 S.Ct. 1061 (2016). As a result, NPS excluded Alaska parks from the 2016 final rule and will rely upon applicable ANILCA Title XI regulations in 43 CFR Part 36 for managing non-federal oil and gas activities in Alaska parks. NPS has stated it may reconsider this exemption upon receipt of a final decision in the Sturgeon litigation. Because of this, the scope of our comments that follow are limited to all units of the National Park System where non-federal oil and gas rights exist, except for those parks in Alaska.
Non-Federal Oil and Gas Rights in Parks
Non-federal oil and gas rights exist within System units in situations where the United States does not own the oil and gas interest, because either:
- the United States acquired the surface estate from a grantor that did not own the oil and gas interest; or
- the United States acquired the property from a grantor that reserved the oil and gas interest from the conveyance.
Non-federal oil and gas interests can be held by individuals; nonprofit organizations; corporations; or state and local governments. Interests in non-federal oil and gas are property rights that may only be taken for public use with payment of just compensation in accordance with the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Accordingly, from their initial promulgation, the 1978 Regulations at 36 CFR 9.30(a) have stated that they are “not intended to result in the taking of a property interest, but rather to impose reasonable regulations on activities that involve and affect federally owned lands.”
Of the 417 units of the National Parks System, there are currently 12 parks with a combined total of 534 non-federal oil and gas operations (see Appendix A). In addition, based on the presence of split estates, exploration and production occurring on adjacent or nearby lands, and likely increases in energy prices, there are up to 30 other parks with the potential for future non-federal oil and gas operations to occur within park boundaries (see Appendix B).
The 1978 Regulations
On December 8, 1978, the NPS promulgated the regulations at 36 CFR Part 9, Subpart B (43 FR 57825) (1978 regulations), governing the exercise of non-federal oil and gas rights in units of the National Park System (System units). The 1978 regulations applied to all exploration and development activities associated with non-federal oil and gas inside System unit boundaries where access is through federally owned or controlled lands or waters (36 CFR 9.30(a)). Under the 1978 regulations, an operator proposing such activity was required to obtain NPS approval of a plan of operations before beginning operations in a System unit (36 CFR 9.32(b)). This requirement covered exploration, drilling, production, transportation, plugging, and reclamation operations.
The proposed plan of operations was an operator’s blueprint of all intended activities and served as NPS’s primary means for evaluating the operation’s potential impacts on park resources and values. The plan first established the operator’s bona fide property right to non-federal oil and gas located in the park. Generally, the required plan described the proposed operation, including the equipment and materials to be used and methods to access the site, as well as any mitigation measures to protect NPS resources and values. The plan also presented the environmental conditions in the vicinity of the site, the environmental impacts of the proposed operation, and possible alternatives to the proposal.
In addition to the proposed plan of operations, and prior to approval, under the 1978 regulations the operator was required to submit a performance bond intended to ensure that funds are available to reclaim a site (36 CFR 9.48). In practice however, the 1978 bonding limits often proved inadequate to accomplish site reclamation. The 1978 regulations also required operators to provide an affidavit that operations complied with all applicable state and local laws (36 CFR 9.36(a)(15)). While some state and local regulations address protection of natural resources (e.g., surface and groundwater), their primary focus has long been on oil and gas production and protection of associated ownership interests. Conversely, the focus of the 1978 NPS regulations was to protect the National Park System’s natural and cultural resources and visitor values and safety.
The 1978 regulations provided that the NPS Regional Director would approve the proposal when it met the requirements of the regulations and the NPS completed the required environmental compliance (36 CFR 9.37). The approved plan is the operator’s authorization to conduct its operation in a System unit (36 CFR 9.32(a)). In the 38 years since promulgation of the 1978 regulations, the NPS has never denied a non-federal oil and gas permit application.
During the life of an oil or gas operation in a park, the 1978 regulations authorized the park manager to monitor compliance with the approved plan of operations and, if there was a change in circumstances, to request the operator to supplement the plan. These regulations also authorized NPS to enforce the terms of the plan, including suspending operations or revoking plan approval (36 CFR 9.51). However, no simple remedy such as penalty citations was provided to address minor operational concerns.
Impacts to Parks Under the 1978 Regulations
At the time the 1978 regulations were promulgated the NPS made a policy choice to exempt (“grandfather”) existing operations until expiration of their state and local permits, based on the theory that this would allow a phase-in of NPS regulatory requirement for these operations. Through 2016 however, few operations have expired and thus most of these grandfathered operations have not become subject to NPS regulations. This exemption applies to 45% of the oil and gas operations occurring in parks today. Operations not requiring access through federal property were also exempted under the 1978 regulations. This situation was expected to occur in limited circumstances; however, this exemption continues to apply to another 15% of today’s oil and gas operations. Like the grandfather exemption, the access exemption is not specified in any statute, but was an exercise of the NPS discretion at the time the regulations were promulgated.
In essence, under the 1978 regulations “exempt” was virtually synonymous with “unregulated,” leaving NPS with few effective tools for managing 60% of the oil and gas operations occurring on park lands. Over time, NPS found that new or “non-exempt” operations permitted under the 1978 regulations were compatible with maintaining park resources. On the other hand, the exempt operations often did not follow best management practices and were causing unacceptable impacts to park resources and values. Examples of exempt oil and gas activities conducted in parks that caused harm include oil and gas well production operations, such as installation and operation of well flowlines and gathering lines; well plugging and abandonment; and site reclamation. The variety of documented impacts occurring from operations exempted under the 1978 rule include:
- Surface water quality degradation from spills, storm water runoff, erosion, and sedimentation. Through site inspections the NPS documented 26 instances of in-park operation sites with surface contamination;
- Soil and ground water contamination from existing drilling mud pits, poorly constructed wells, spills, and leaks. Through site inspections the NPS has documented 47 instances of sites with wellhead leaks, pump jack leaks, tank battery leaks, and operations and maintenance spills;
- Air quality degradation from dust, natural gas flaring, hydrogen sulfide gas, and emissions from production operations and vehicles. Through site inspections the NPS documented 14 instances of notable odors emanating from the wellhead;
- Noise from seismic operations, blasting, construction, oil and gas drilling, and production operations. Through site inspections the NPS documented 6 instances of excess noise issues from well pad equipment;
- Noise and human presence effects on wildlife behavior, breeding, habitat utilization, and disruption of wildlife migration routes;
- Adverse effects on sensitive and endangered species. Through site inspections the NPS documented 15 sites with sensitive species or habitat;
- Viewshed intrusion by roads, traffic, production equipment, pipelines, etc.;
- Night sky intrusion from artificial lighting and gas flares;
- Disturbance to archeological and cultural resources from maintenance activities or by spills. Through site inspections the NPS documented 6 sites with associated cultural resources; and
- Visitor safety hazards from equipment, pressurized vessels and lines, presence of hydrogen sulfide gas, and leaking oil and gas that can create explosion and fire hazards. Through site inspections the NPS documented 62 instances of visitor safety hazards.
Cases of documented impacts from exempted operations can be found in many parks. For example, at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area natural-gas-fired pump jack engines can be heard at visitor overlooks that are 2 to 3 miles away. Simple mitigation such as a corrugated steel fence around the operations would abate this impact; however, due to the well’s grandfathered status, the NPS has been unable to require this mitigation and is therefore forced to accept this adverse impact. Another example of avoidable impacts was found at Aztec Ruins National Monument where an operation exempt from the 1978 regulations due to the grandfathered exemption contained a road that traversed an unexcavated archeological site. Only when this well lost its grandfathered status due to a change of operator was the NPS able to require the new operator to conduct a cultural resource survey to determine the impacts to the site. As mitigation the operator installed a layer of dirt between the archeological site and the road base to protect the resources.
Another critical shortcoming of the 1978 rule was its outdated bonding (financial assurances) limit of $200,000 per operator per park regardless of the actual cost of reclamation or how many sites were being used by the operator within the park. In cases when the bond is insufficient to cover actual reclamation costs, the only NPS recourse was a civil suit to recover additional costs – a difficult, costly, and time consuming process. In cases where the operator is insolvent or cannot be located, the actual cost of well plugging and site reclamation fell squarely on the NPS and American taxpayers. After many years of implementing the $200,000 limit, it became clear that the bond was frequently inadequate to cover the reasonable and likely costs of reclamation, particularly in cases where an operator had multiple wells in a park. For example, a foreign operator with a permit for 11 wells at Padre Island National Seashore abandoned all its operations and essentially disappeared. Although the NPS retained the $200,000 performance bond, the actual cost to plug wells and reclaim just one site (with 5 wells) is estimated at $350,000.
Key Benefits of the Current 9B Regulations as Revised in 2016
First, it is important to understand that the need to revise the 1978 regulations had long been recognized. The final rule revision published in 2016 was the culmination of many years of NPS planning and public participation that began with the November 25, 2009 publication of an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (74 FR 61597). In brief, the 2016 revision was much needed and long overdue; it clearly was not a last-minute effort to create new restrictions in the waning days of the Obama administration, as seems to be implied by the executive order (E.O. 13777).
The 2016 regulations included many important elements to improve their effectiveness in protecting park resources and values and enhancing visitor experience and safety. First, it eliminated two regulatory provisions regarding access across federal property and grandfathered operations, which had exempted approximately 60% of the oil and gas operations located within the boundaries of NPS units. Under the 1978 rules, the NPS was unable to regulate 319 of the 534 (60%) non-federal oil and gas wells occurring in parks in 2015 (when the proposed rule was published). Many of these unregulated operations were not following best management practices, resulting in degradation of park resources and values and potential safety hazards for park visitors.
Second, the 2016 rule eliminated the long outdated and inadequate limit on financial assurance (bonding) that NPS could require to ensure adequate funding is available for site reclamation if an operator abandons a site or otherwise fails to fulfill his/her obligation to plug a well and reclaim the site. The 2016 revision of Section 9.141 made the bond amount equal to the estimated cost of reclamation for each operation. This common sense approach ensures the availability of reclamation funds if needed, removes a potentially significant financial burden from the NPS and American taxpayers, and places the responsibility of reclamation exactly where it should be – on the operator.
Other noteworthy improvements included in the 2016 9B revisions were:
- Application of the NPS penalty provisions at 36 CFR 1.3 to address minor regulatory infractions that do not rise to the level of permit suspension or judicial intervention;
- Clarification that an “operations permit” is a special use permit allowing the NPS to recover costs associated with the permitting and operations monitoring process (Sec. 9.40), and that the NPS may require the use of third-party monitors to oversee permitted operations (Sec. 9.121), which speeds the process and facilitates NPS monitoring of operations;
- Incorporation of a new format for information requirements (Sec. 9.80-9.90) and operating standards (Sec. 9.110-9.118) that makes it easier for both the NPS and the operator to readily identify the standards that apply to particular operations;
- Codifying a definition for “technologically feasible, least damaging methods” as the non-prescriptive general standard for all operations, and requiring such methods in all operations to protect park resources and values, visitor experiences, and NPS staff safety (Sec. 9.110(c));
- Provision for new information requirements and operating standards for well stimulation, including hydraulic fracturing (Sec. 9.118(b)), which facilitate analysis and public involvement if/when these often contentious fracking proposals occur;
- Addition of a new well-plugging provision (Sec 9.170) to address inactive and shut-in wells and ensure timely reclamation, which eliminates long-standing inactive well sites that cause ongoing resources degradations and visitor safety hazards; and
- Consolidation of existing regulatory provisions and elimination of redundant provisions.
Especially important were revisions that eliminated the exemptions for grandfathered operations and access across federal lands and thereby allows the NPS to achieve the following objectives:
- Now ALL non-federal oil and gas operations conducted within the authorized boundaries of park units (including the 60% that were previously “exempt”) will be managed to ensure the use of technologically feasible least damaging methods to prevent or to minimize damage to national park system resources, visitor values, and management objectives.
- Updated operating standards will reflect new technologies, operational methods, and current scientific and technological findings to result in operations least damaging to park resources and values.
- Health and safety hazards associated with non-federal oil and gas operations will be managed to protect park staff and visitors.
- Adequate financial assurance will be provided by non-federal operators to ensure that park resources and values are protected and all oil and gas operation sites are properly reclaimed.
- Appropriate penalty authority will be available to provide a practical and effective means for dealing with minor acts of noncompliance or unauthorized operations in parks.
- An incentive will be retained for operators to directionally drill from surface locations outside parks, which minimizes effects on park resources while still maintaining the ability of the NPS to protect park resources and values to the fullest extent practical.
- Reorganized and clarified regulations will be more understandable to operators, the public, and NPS staff, helping to provide reasonable and timely processing of applications and permits.
Comments on Goals of the Regulatory Reform Initiative
As stated in the Federal Register Notice, one of the main goals of E.O. 13777 is to identify regulations for repeal, replacement, or modification considering, at a minimum, those regulations that:
- Eliminate jobs, or inhibit job creation;
- Are outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective;
- Impose costs that exceed benefits;
- Create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with regulatory reform initiatives and policies;
- Rely, in part or in whole, on data or methods that are not publicly available or insufficiently transparent to meet the standard for reproducibility; or
- Derive from or implement E.O.s or other Presidential directives that have been subsequently rescinded or substantially modified.
We offer the following comments regarding how the 2016 NPS “9B” regulations relate to the above goals:
Eliminate jobs, or inhibit job creation: Within the National Park System there are 98 different operators conducting oil and gas operations in twelve parks (see Appendix A). Production from wells in the System account for just 0.03 percent of the total crude oil and 0.02 percent of the total natural gas produced in the United States in 2011; and the number of jobs involved is almost certainly proportional to the level of production. More than 90 percent of these operators are small businesses that employ less than 50 people each. The updates to the 9B regulations do not impose a significant economic impact to an operator conducting oil and gas activities in parks; these regulations are unlikely to eliminate oil and gas jobs or inhibit job creation.
On the other hand, the potential for new oil and gas jobs creation in parks is insignificant compared to the number of jobs already being supported by park visitor spending in the parks subject to the 9B regulations. “Healthy” parks (i.e., parks with well conserved natural and cultural resources) attract hundreds of thousands and in some cases millions of visitors and serve as powerful economic engines that create jobs and support sustainable economies in the nearby communities. For example, the 12 parks where non-federal oil and gas operations currently occur attracted over 8.4 million visitors and supported over 5,600 jobs in local communities in 2016 (see Appendix A). The 30 parks with split-estates, where oil and gas operations could occur in the future, attracted 21.8 million visitors and supported almost 25,000 jobs in the local communities in 2016 (see Appendix B).
By providing the NPS with improved methods to address adverse impacts to park resources from ALL non-federal oil and gas operations in these parks (including the 60% that were previously exempted), parks remain “healthy” and park visitors benefit from improved health, safety, and environmental conditions that reduce the risk of exposure to physical and chemical hazards. By ensuring safe and clean oil and gas development, the 9B update helps meet visitor’s expectations of enjoying natural conditions while recreating in national parks. And, last but not least, the improved visitor experience opportunities directly support sustainable jobs in local communities.
Are outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective: The 2016 regulation replaced the outdated 1978 regulations, which were ineffective in managing the impacts of the majority (60%) of oil and gas operations occurring on NPS lands. The 2016 regulations have addressed major gaps in the 1978 regulations and are therefore up-to-date, necessary, AND effective.
Impose costs that exceed benefits: Within the National Park System there are 98 different operators conducting oil and gas operations in twelve parks (see Appendix A). More than 90 percent of these operators are small businesses that employ less than 50 people each. The updates to the 9B regulations do not impose a significant economic impact to an operator conducting oil and gas activities in parks. The NPS Cost-Benefit and Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (September 21, 2015) found that the benefits of the regulatory updates were GREATER than the associated costs; and the cost of compliance was just 0.03 percent of average annual receipts for such an operator.
While consideration of potential costs imposed by the regulation is appropriate, it is equally important to consider the potential adverse economic impacts that could result from inadequate management of oil and gas operations within units of the National Park System. Our many years of experience indicate that the potential for increased profits from new oil and gas operations in parks is insignificant compared to the economic benefits now being generated by park visitor spending in the various parks subject to the 9B regulations. As noted above, the 12 parks where non-federal oil and gas operations currently occur attracted over 8.4 million visitors, resulting in $380 million in visitor spending and $474 million in total economic output in the local communities (see Appendix A). In addition, the 30 parks where oil and gas operations may occur in the future, attracted 21.8 million visitors in 2016, producing $1.6 billion in visitor spending and $2.1 billion in total economic output in the local communities (see Appendix B).
Evidence gathered thus far indicates that the 2016 updates to the 9B regulations do not impose a significant economic impact to operators in parks. The NPS’s Cost-Benefit and Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (September 21, 2015) found the cost of compliance was 0.03 percent of average annual receipts for such an operator. Conversely, the improved visitor experience opportunities directly benefit and support sustainable local economies.
Create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with regulatory reform initiatives and policies:
Rely, in part or in whole, on data or methods that are not publicly available or insufficiently transparent to meet the standard for reproducibility: The 2016 regulations eliminated a serious inconsistency in the administration of non-federal oil and gas operations on lands managed by the NPS. Specifically, it eliminated outdated exemptions for 60% of those operations, so that ALL operations are managed consistently under the regulation. Throughout the process of developing these new regulations, the NPS provided extensive information on data and methods to the public and invited the public to comment on such information in both the 2015 proposed rule and in the related 2015 draft environmental impact statement (EIS). Public comments and concerns were addressed and responded to in the 2016 final rule and the 2016 final EIS, and additional explanation was provided in the 2016 Record of Decision. In fact, promulgation of the 2016 regulation was a fully transparent process consistent with the norms and requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Administrative Procedures Act, and related procedural guidance.
Derive from or implement E.O.s or other Presidential directives that have been subsequently rescinded or substantially modified: The updated 2016 9B Regulations do not derive from any E.O.s or Presidential directives. Rather, the NPS Organic Act and park enabling statutes governing the National Park System provide NPS authority for the 9B regulations. In fact, NPS’s authority to promulgate the 9B regulations has been recognized as a valid exercise of NPS’s Organic Act authority by the U.S. District Court (S.D. Tex.) and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Comments on Interior’s Progress and Plan for Regulatory Reform
As stated in the Federal Register Notice, part of the regulatory reform effort underway in Interior includes implementing the requirement known colloquially as the “two-for-one” requirement, as described in the Notice:
This requirement was established by President Trump in E.O. 13771, and detailed in Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Interim Guidance issued February 2, 2017, and OMB Guidance of April 5, 2017. These documents require Federal agencies to: (1) Issue two “deregulatory” actions for each new significant regulatory action that imposes costs; and (2) fully offset the total incremental cost of such new significant regulatory action. Interior is in the process of reviewing existing regulations (significant and non-significant) to identify actions that can be repealed. The cost savings associated with to-be-repealed actions will offset the costs of any new significant regulations that are necessary for promulgation; to account for these offsets, bureaus are working to quantify undue burden, where possible.
Comment: While the proposed “two-for-one” reduction in regulations for every Federal agency is an attention-grabbing sound bite, it is an arbitrary and capricious philosophy that has no connection to reality. We can understand and support the thoughtful review of existing regulations and the benefit of caution in creating new ones. However, it must be recognized that under the applicable statutory authorities, such as the NPS Organic Act, the Secretary, acting through the NPS, is obligated to “manage” parks in manner that leaves park resources “unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” The agency’s authority to promulgate regulations under the Act is one of the primary management tools provided by statute to accomplish the fundamental purpose of parks.
While the 2016 9B regulations are not covered by this requirement due to the prior publication, the extensive experience of our members in promulgating NPS regulations over the past 40 or more years is that new regulatory actions are invariably proportional to the ever-changing variety and number of “new” activities that visitors and sometimes commercial operators want to conduct in parks, activities that NPS must “manage”; and sometimes litigation against the agency contributes to the need for new regulations as well. As a result, there is no practical or simplistic way to reasonably identify the overall number of regulations that are necessary and appropriate for effective management because of the ever changing the number and variety of activities allowed or proposed to be allowed in parks. Nor is there a practical or realistic way of assessing costs associated with existing, proposed, or new regulations. In essence, the number of regulations needed at any particular time is a moving target that must always be guided by the legal and policy foundations of the NPS. The need to modify, eliminate, or create new regulations is not compatible with an arbitrary “two-for-one” reduction goal.
Summary of Our Position
In 2015 the Coalition submitted written comments that fully supported the NPS proposed revisions to the 9B regulations. The need for reform of the 1978 regulations was clearly evident and long overdue. The shortcomings resulted in significant regulatory gaps that needed to be addressed for the NPS to fully carry out its conservation mandate under the NPS Organic Act of 1916 (54 U.S.C. 100101 et seq.). In brief, we asserted that the proposed regulatory revisions, finalized in 2016, were necessary to: 1) Strengthen the NPS’s ability to fulfill its mission to protect park resources and visitor values as required under; 2) Provide equitable financial compensation and surety to protect the public’s resources and taxpayer dollars, and 3) Create and improve efficiencies in the regulatory requirements.
In closing, while legislation and property law allow for the development of non-federal oil and gas rights in some units of the National Park System, the NPS has a legal duty to manage such development in a manner that is consistent with the NPS Organic Act and related NPS Management Policies. The 2016 revision of the NPS 9B regulations was necessary to protect public health and safety; improved understanding, application and effectiveness of the regulations for the NPS and for industry; and incorporated new requirements to ensure that ALL non-federal oil and gas operations conducted in national park system units avoid or minimize, to the greatest possible extent, adverse effects on natural and cultural resources, visitor uses and experiences, park infrastructure and management. The 2016 final rule is fully consistent with these requirements and the Coalition strongly supports the final rule as written. We strongly OPPOSE any move by the Department to change or repeal the 2016 9B regulations. Given the known potential of adverse impacts to parks, any return to weaker regulations would be a clear abrogation of the Secretary’s duty under the NPS Organic Act to conserve parks unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.
We appreciate the opportunity to comment on this important issue.
Chair, Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks
cc: Michael Reynolds, Acting Director, National Park Service
The 12 Parks that Currently Have Non-Federal Oil and Gas Operations
|Park||State||# O&G Operations||# Companies Operating Wells||Park Visitation2016||Visitor Spending2016||Jobs Supported72016||Economic Output72016|
|Alibates Flint Quarries NM||TX||5||1||8,153||$476,600||8||$596,500|
|Aztec Ruins NM||NM||4||2||57,692||$3.4 million||52||$3.9 million|
|Big Cypress Nat. Preserve||FL||20||1||1,102,148||$88 million||1,300||$126 million|
|Big South Fork NR&RA||TN/KY||152||31||684,715||$20.8 million||282||$22.3 million|
|Big Thicket Nat. Preserve||TX||39||16||192,809||$12.3 million||172||$15.9 million|
|Cumberland Gap NHP||TN||2||1||2,423,390||$52.5 million||793||$66.1 million|
|Cuyahoga Valley NP||OH||90||21||820,387||$69.7 million||1,100||$87.2 million|
|Gauley River NRA||WV||28||3||115,888||$5 million||73||$5.6 million|
|Lake Meredith NRA||TX||174||17||1,025,613||$44.4 million||654||$51.4 million|
|New River Gorge NR||WV||1||1||1,197,931||$52.1 million||781||$59.8 million|
|Obed Wild & Scenic River||TN||5||2||231,390||$4.1 million||50||$3.9 million|
|Padre Island Nat. Seashore||TX||14||2||634,012||$27.2 million||406||$31.3 million|
The 30 Parks with “Split Estates”
(No current oil & gas operations; but could occur in the future)
|Park||State||Park Visitation20166||Visitor Spending62016||Jobs Supported7 2016||Economic Output72016|
|Bluestone NSR||WV||43,139||$1.5 million||23||$1.7 million|
|Cane River Creole NHP||LA||26,863||$1.6 million||23||$1.9 million|
|Carlsbad Cavern NP||NM||466,773||$30.1 million||444||$33.8 million|
|Chaco Culture NHP||NM||54,084||$3 million||46||$3.6 million|
|Dinosaur NM||CO/UT||304,312||$18.1 million||244||$20.5 million|
|Everglades NP||FL||930,907||$91.3 million||1,300||$136.4 million|
|Flight 93 Memorial||PA||385,123||$22.5 million||371||$30.7 million|
|Fort Necessity NB||PA||290,021||$18.7 million||296||$26 million|
|Ft. Union Trading Post NHP||ND||17,502||$1.4 million||16||$1.3 million|
|Friendship Hill NHS||PA||37,847||$2.2 million||38||$3.1 million|
|Glen Canyon NRA||AZ/UT||3,270,076||$235 million||3,239||$272.5 million|
|Grand Teton NP||WY||3,270,076||$597.3 million||9,400||$779.5 million|
|Great Sand Dunes NP & Pres.||CO||388,308||$23.7 million||348||$28.9 million|
|Guadalupe Mountains NP||TX||181,839||$11.2 million||169||$13.5 million|
|Gulf Islands Nat. Seashore||FL/MS||4,771,309||$206.6 million||3,000||$251.8 million|
|Hopewell Culture NHP||OH||58,058||$3.4 million||60||$4.8 million|
|Indiana Dunes Nat. Lakeshore||IN||1,698,223||$73.8 million||1,000||$100.9 million|
|Jean Lafitte NHP & Preserve||LA||438,420||$25.6 million||395||$33.5 million|
|Johnstown Flood Nat. Mem.||PA||154,931||$9.6 million||169||$13.7 million|
|Little River Canyon Nat. Pres.||AL||462,700||$27.1 million||446||$35.5 million|
|Mammoth Cave NP||KY||586,514||$49.6 million||764||$68 million|
|Mesa Verde NP||CO||583,527||$60.6 million||883||$73.3 million|
|Palo Alto Battlefield NHP||TX||58,556||$3.4 million||57||$4.2 million|
|San Antonio Missions NHP||TX||1,358,911||$79.5 million||1,300||$110.7 million|
|Santa Monica Mtns. NRA||CA||906,606||$39.4 million||557||$54.3 million|
|Steamtown NHS||PA||99,660||$5.4 million||86||$7.4 million|
|Theodore Roosevelt NP||ND||753,880||$9.6 million||135||$13.1 million|
|Upper Delaware SRR||NY/PA||264,362||$11.5 million||130||$13.8 million|
|Washita Battlefield NHS||OK||12,312||$719,900||10||$797,700|