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Interior will 'trust but verify' as it re-examines Obama-era rules, Zinke says

All regulations put in place by the Obama administration's Department of the Interior, including those involving methane emissions from oil and gas wells, are "on the table" for review, said new Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

During a conference call March 29, a day after President Donald Trump signed an executive order setting a time frame to roll back emissions guidelines for methane from oil and gas production, Zinke used terminology former President Ronald Reagan once used during negotiations with the Soviet Union. "We're going to trust but verify that the rules are appropriate, that they are within our regulatory authority," he said. "It's going to be a big effort, but I'm confident that with the department's expertise, we can handle it."

Zinke said Trump requested that he create a task force for the review of the previous administration's regulations to see if they are unnecessary. That process, the secretary said, is underway.

"Everything's on the table," he said. Zinke said also that the 2017-2022 Offshore Lease Plan set in place by the Obama administration would be reviewed.

Zinke also said he had created a 20-member panel of people with no business ties to the department to review whether royalties paid to the government for oil, gas and coal production on federal lands are sufficient. The Obama administration said the current royalty regime provides insufficient returns to the taxpayer, a concern the new interior secretary echoed. "We want to make sure taxpayers are getting fair value of assets on public lands," Zinke said.

When asked about whether the administration would roll back emissions regulations that led power plants to switch from burning coal to natural gas, Zinke said he would prefer for market forces to be the decisive factor. "We're not in the business of picking winners. The market should dictate it," he said. "Costs in the natural gas sector have gone down, primarily because of fracking and new technologies. We have an abundance of natural gas. The Marcellus, the Bakken and the Permian are all contributing to that."

Zinke also came out in strong support of U.S. LNG exports, saying they could be an "economic counter to Russian aggression" as a replacement source of energy for European countries reliant on Russian natural gas.