Energy Companies Target Yellowstone Region
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Energy Companies Target Yellowstone Region

Oil Lease Bids Expected for Public Lands Near the First National Park

Public lands. The crown jewel of national parks is being threatened by energy companies. Oil lease auctions scheduled for March will seek bids for public lands in Montana near Yellowstone National Park. Also threatened:  Canyonlands National Park in Utah.

Yellowstone National Park is the centerpiece of the 31,250 square-mile Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, a region that includes Grand Teton National Park, adjacent national forests and expansive wilderness areas. The ecosystem is the largest remaining continuous stretch of mostly undeveloped pristine land in the contiguous United States and considered the world’s largest intact ecosystem in the northern temperate zone.

Federal lease auctions have attracted far less excitement than anticipated from oil and gas producers, even in heavily drilled areas of Wyoming, North Dakota, Utah and Colorado. Auctions of federal drilling leases earned $316.2 million in 2017, about 61% higher than the $196.7 million the government made from leasing in 2016.

Just seven parcels covering nearly 80,000 acres received bids in a December lease auction of land in the National Petroleum Reserve along Alaska’s North Slope. A September lease sale in New Mexico’s Permian Basin attracted nearly $131 million in sales of 61 parcels covering 15,331 acres.

Puerto Rico. The United States is facing a nationwide shortage of intravenous bags just as flu cases accelerate after a major manufacturer in Puerto Rico was affected by the hurricane. Some hospitals have only a day or two of supplies and may not be able to handle an influx of patients as the influenza virus heats up. Some hospitals are administering medications with syringes instead of IV bags because of the shortage. Baxter International Inc. said two IV plants in Puerto Rico are hooked up to the electrical grid but that power is intermittent. The plants have backup generators. A large hospital can go through hundreds or thousands of IV bags a day.

Immigrants. About 262,000 Salvadorans are expected to learn Monday if our government will send them back to El Salvador by ending their participation in the Temporary Protected Status program. The Trump administration has already ended protections for immigrants from other countries including 59,000 from Haiti and 5,300 Nicaraguans. The TPS program is supposed to provide a temporary haven for victims of natural disasters. Two earthquakes struck El Salvador in early 2001, killing more than 1,100 people and leaving 1 million others homeless.

Kushner. Shortly before First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner accompanied Trump to Israel in May, the Kushner family real estate company received a $30 million investment from one of Israel’s largest financial institutions. The deal with Menora Mivtachim, which was not made public, pumped significant new equity into 10 Maryland apartment complexes controlled by Kushner’s firm. The business dealings don’t appear to violate federal ethics laws, but they could undermine the ability of the United States to be seen as an independent broker in the region. “I think it’s reasonable for people to ask whether his business interests are somehow affecting his judgment,” said Matthew T. Sanderson, a lawyer at Caplin & Drysdale in Washington who specializes in government ethics.

January 8, 2018