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Two Years of a Misguided ‘Energy Dominance’ Policy

Interior’s single-minded focus on oil and gas has been a disaster for our public lands and wildlife

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two years to the day of President Trump unveiling his “energy dominance” doctrine, the architect of that plan, Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, will appear before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to interview for his chance to permanently lead the Interior Department. This notable, ignominious anniversary offers Senators an opportunity to press Bernhardt on his role in opening up millions of acres of public lands — on- and off-shore — to unfettered drilling.

“The Department of the Interior stewards our public lands, waters and natural resources for the enjoyment and benefit of all. ‘Energy dominance’ has thrown that balance out of whack and left future generations at risk of losing their wildlife heritage and access to treasured landscapes,” said Tracy Stone-Manning, associate vice president for public lands at the National Wildlife Federation. “Senators should mark this anniversary by pressing Acting Secretary Bernhardt on how he’ll change course. There’s too much at stake to do anything less.”

Bernhardt has told reporters that balancing energy development with conservation is the core mission of the job he seeks, but in practice, his record tells a very different story.  Over the past two years, the administration has offered up nearly 95 million acres of public lands and waters to oil and gas leasing. The administration has proposed drilling in some of the most iconic lands and waters of this country, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Atlantic coast, and the sagebrush steppe which stretches across 11 western states. 

“The problem with this ‘energy dominance’ approach is that it has been scatter-shot, offering thousands of acres across broad swaths of land, even when there is little evidence that oil and gas lies beneath them,” Stone-Manning said.

The Administration’s energy dominance agenda has been as unpopular as it’s been destructive. The 2019 Conservation in the West poll found voters in western states disagreed with core facets of the ‘energy dominance’ approach, including energy development in sage grouse habitat and the weakening national monument protections.

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