The Trump administration said on Tuesday that it will no longer require oil drillers, miners or other industries to pay for damage they inflict on public lands while working under permitted projects.  iStockphoto photo.

Oil drillers have paid $152M for compensatory mitigation since 2008

One week after the Trump administration proposed changes to the US Endangered Species Act, the US government said it will no longer force oil drillers, miners or other industries working on public lands to pay for damage caused by them under their permitted projects.

The US government says they are changing the rules to speed up development on federal lands.  The administration announced the shift in a memo from the Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management officials.

According to Reuters, Interior spokeswoman Faith Vander Voort confirmed the policy change.  She added that since 2008, industries have paid $152 million for compensatory mitigation to both the BLM and approved third parties.

Compensatory mitigation is any activity, payment or action that is focused on an area which is intended to offset damage to another area where permitted activity is ongoing.

An example of compensatory mitigation is when a mining company establishes habitat conservation areas in exchange for expanding its operations on other public lands.

Under previous administrations, companies have been required to provide compensatory mitigation.

The BLM says it will still consider voluntary proposals for compensatory mitigation and adds that it will not authorize activity that causes unnecessary harm.

But, environmentalists see the move as a handout to industry.

“This is the latest dismal action by (Interior) Secretary Zinke and the Trump administration to put special interests ahead of our natural heritage,” Center for Biological Diversity Government Affairs Director Brett Hartl told Reuters in an email. “It is deeply out of touch with the values of all Americans that support a healthy environment and vibrant wildlife communities.”