Organizations are voicing concern over the protection of National Park's after a congressman's regulation update proposal.
Arizona Republican Representative Paul Gosar introduced House Joint Resolution 46, on Jan. 30, which would repeal updates to the National Park Service's "9B" regulation.
The "9B" regulation requires prospective oil and gas operators to obtain NPS approval of an operations permit to secure reclamation bonds before they can commence operations in a national parks unit, according to the the NPS's website.
The National Parks Conservation Association stated in a press release that the current regulation, sets safety standards for oil and gas drilling inside more than 40 national parks where the federal government owns the land but not the mineral rights.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio has 284 wells on site with 72 operational, according to the NPCA. There are 11 other national reserves, national monuments and national historic parks that have wells on site.
Gosar's Congressional Review Act bill would block the NPS's oil and gas rule passed on Nov. 4, 2016 under the Obama administration and take away the NPS's ability to approve oil and gas permits.
In a press release from Gosar, he states extremist groups are claiming that H.J. Res. 46 would authorize new drilling in national parks which he claims is "utterly false."
"Private property rights are a bedrock principle of America," he said in the release. "However, the Park Service's midnight oil and gas regulation jeopardizes significant investments made by job creators, states and private companies. The federal government has no right to impose job-killing regulations for private and state-owned oil and natural gas wells not owned by the federal government, especially when these wells are already subject to existing environmental regulations."
In the press release, he stated that under current regulations the NPS has a 180-day timeframe to reach a decision on oil and gas permits. An extension could be allowed if needed, which is an "exorbitant length of time that creates unnecessary delays in industry operations," he said in the press release.
The NPCA said this resolution is a move by federal lawmakers to weaken environmental protections for national parks under the Congressional Review Act.
The press release went on to state if the repeal is signed into law under the CRA, it will stop current protections and will prohibit agencies from issuing similar rules and protections in the future, unless directed by Congress.
Nicholas Lund, senior manager of NPCA's conservation program, said in a press release if the NPS's drilling rules were repealed, national parks could be subjected to poorly regulated drilling which would threaten air, water and wildlife.
"These challenges are direct attacks on America's national parks," he said. "Each of these rules provides the commonsense protections for national parks that millions of Americans demand."
The NPCA said the current 9B rules set in place safeguards for national parks from private oil and gas development and the rules only require an operator to produce a Plan of Operation before accessing the mineral rights. It also states the operator must give the NPS the authority to conduct safety enforcement and prove standard technical requirements to protect the national park and its inhabitants.
Jan Swenson of Badlands Conservation Alliance, said if this repeal moves forward and "gets legs," then it is worrisome.
"Of course, the BCA would hope that this goes nowhere. If that is not the case, then we will need to be concerned," she said. "The American public generally thinks that their national parks are protected from development, and if this moves forward and that would no longer be the case, I'm sure the public would have something to say about it."
Valerie Naylor, private consultant for NPCA, said if the resolution passed, Theodore Roosevelt National Park would be affected.
"Regarding Theodore Roosevelt National Park, most of the minerals under the park are owned by the federal government, but not all of them are," she said. "A change in this rule could certainly affect TRNP and other parks in a very negative way."
TRNP and the NPS declined to comment at this time.
The NPCA said if Congress repeals the rules, drilling could occur inside national parks with "little more than bare-minimum state regulations." This would leave the NPS with no authority over development proposed inside national parks and the drilling companies would not be required to inform parks or visitors about drilling operations, the NPCA said in a press release.