America’s national parks are undoubtedly some of our “best ideas.” They are unique places across our country where public lands are preserved for their natural, cultural, or historic value, as well as for the unique contributions they provide to local and regional economies and our national economic strength. This is why we have set aside national parks, national seashores, national memorials, and other places managed by the National Park Service for future generations.
Even though we have protected these national park units to allow them to achieve their full environmental, cultural, historical, and economic potential, threats to their preservation do arise. One of those threats today is the potential for future oil and gas development within national parks.
Currently, any development activity on public lands, including national parks, must take place in accordance with various federal environmental laws to protect air, water, wildlife, and public health. Additionally, operators must comply with National Park Service oil and gas regulations within park units.
But this time-tested process is now threatened by some politicians in Washington—influenced by the oil and gas industry—who propose to roll back or even completely eliminate federal oversight of energy on public lands in favor of more relaxed state regulations. This shift in management oversight of drilling in national parks would be more dangerous to maintaining the balance needed to develop our national parks to their full and varied potential.
Oil and gas drilling is a dirty business that, if done improperly, has the potential to do substantial harm to national parks and other public lands. Drilling involves not just the construction of rigs but also roads, pipelines, and other infrastructure. Toxic chemicals such as naphthalene and benzene are sometimes used in oil and gas drilling and production activities. There is also the equally real threat of spills, which are frequent both onshore and offshore.
For more on this topic, please see:
- Drilling Could Threaten Our National Parks by Jessica Goad and Christy Goldfuss