The Trump Interior Department is expected to end an Obama-era policy requiring oil drillers, miners, and land developers to pay the government for damages its work can have on wildlife and habitats on public land.
Bloomberg News notes that the “compensatory mitigation” policy ordered developers to offset the impacts of their actions on public lands by doing things such as funding the restoration and protection of wetlands and other habitats.
“These companies have been asked to pay for the damage they are doing to our public resources on our public lands. And now the Trump administration is saying you don’t need to pay that bill,” said Tracy Stone-Manning, an associate vice president at the National Wildlife Federation. “In the end it looks like another give away for industry at the expense of the American public and wildlife.”
“We still in every decision we make say ‘Have we avoided impacts? Have we minimized impacts?’ ” Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told Bloomberg. “We will still do that but when it comes to doing compensatory mitigation off-site we will say that needs to be voluntary.”
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has been a vocal critic of the “compensatory mitigation” policy.
At a Chamber of Commerce event in 2017, Zinke said the policy amounted to “extortion.”
The move from the Trump administration comes as it seeks to roll back parts of the Endangered Species Act