Posted March 11, 2018 03:15:50 In a rare bipartisan vote in the state Senate, lawmakers approved two bills Monday that would allow oil and gas companies to drill at Yellowstone’s popular Park Service National Park and the southern Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the second such proposal to be approved by the state legislature this year.
Under the bill, the oil and natural gas companies would be allowed to drill in both parks under limited circumstances.
The companies would have to apply to the park service for permission.
A hearing on the proposal was scheduled for next month, but was pushed back to March 11 because of a legislative deadline.
The bill would also allow the oil companies to build wells in the Grand Stairs National Monument and in the southern park.
Under current rules, oil and petroleum companies can drill anywhere in national parks but can only drill if they have permission from park officials.
That means drilling in Grand St.aircase is a requirement for drilling in the Yellowstone area, where oil and mining companies can already drill without permission.
Under a previous proposal, the state would be able to ban oil and coal companies from drilling in any national park, but the measure would not have the same impact as the current restrictions.
“It was not in the best interest of the park to continue allowing oil and oil companies access to the Park Service, but it was necessary to give us the ability to do that,” said Sen. Bob Hall, R-Austin.
“The bill does that.
It allows for the park agency to review the permits before drilling and to impose restrictions if necessary.”
The bill also would allow drilling in parks with a high risk of groundwater contamination, and would require the oil company to obtain a permit from park authorities if drilling goes beyond acceptable standards.
Hall, who sponsored the bill along with Sen. Jose Santiago, D-Fort Worth, said the legislation would be good for the state’s economy.
“There’s a lot of jobs that are dependent on the oil industry, and this bill will give us a little bit of an incentive for the oil people to come and help us out,” Hall said.
The other bill, which would allow fracking in national monuments, would require a permit for any oil and minerals extraction in the monument.
Under existing law, the parks have the ability, but not the obligation, to prohibit drilling.
The oil and mineral extraction industry has used parks to expand and expand their operations in recent years.
Under this new bill, that would not be an issue.
“We would be in a position of having a very strong incentive for people to move out of the national parks, which we don’t do with the exception of some of our parks that are open to the general public,” Hall added.
“This would be a strong incentive to stay in the national park and to stay away from areas that we have been putting pressure on to shut down,” Hall noted.
Hall said the bill would help protect the environment and wildlife.
The House passed the bill by a vote of 23-8 in March and sent it to the Senate.
The Senate is expected to vote on it Tuesday, Hall said, and the bill will need 60 votes to pass.