Committee on Natural Resources

Doc Hastings

Chairman Hastings: Now Is The Time For the Senate To Act on Job-Creating Legislation

2014/09/18

Today, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04) released the following statement following passage of H.R. 4, the Jobs for America Act, by a bipartisan vote of 253-163. This legislation included H.R. 1526, the Restoring Heathy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, sponsored by Chairman Doc Hastings and H.R. 761, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2013, sponsored by Rep. Mark Amodei (NV 02).

“Today, the House not only renewed its commitment to create jobs in America, but renewed its commitment to rural communities dependent on our national forests for their livelihoods, renewed its commitment to restore forest health and to prevent catastrophic wildfire, and renewed its commitment to more efficiently develop our nation’s critical and strategic minerals. This legislation includes important measures to create a long-term, sustainable solution to the mismanagement of our federal forests by requiring responsible timber production and to cut red-tape, frivolous lawsuits, and the burdensome permitting process for mineral development.  America’s natural resources, including our National forests and critical and strategic mineral reserves, continue to serve as an economic engine, job creator, and backbone to our modern industrialized economy. It’s now time for the Senate to act on these important job-creating measures.”

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House Approves Bipartisan Energy Legislation to Create Jobs, Lower Prices, & Reduce Burdensome Regulations

2014/09/18

Today, the House of Representatives approved H.R. 2, the American Energy Solutions for Lower Costs and More American Jobs Act, with a bipartisan vote of 226-191. This package of legislation would expand U.S. energy production and reduce bureaucratic red-tape in order to lower energy prices, create and protect over a million good-paying American jobs, strengthen our economy, and improve our energy security.

“In the House, we are listening to the American people who are telling us that it’s time to expand American energy production. Hardworking Americans know how important energy is in their lives. Unfortunately, on the other side of the Capitol, these calls to expand American energy production are falling on deaf ears,” said Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04). “This bipartisan legislation is a common sense path forward to create over one million new American jobs, provide relief to hardworking Americans who are feeling the squeeze of higher gasoline and electricity prices, reduce burdensome government barriers to American energy production, and increase America’s energy security. With the House’s bipartisan passage of this legislation, it’s now up to the Senate to follow suit and pass this legislation that will benefit every American.”

H.R. 2 includes several Natural Resources Committee bills that have already passed the House.

  • H.R. 4899 (Hastings of Washington), the Lowering Gasoline Prices to Fuel and America that Works Act of 2014.
  • H.R. 2728 (Flores), the Protecting States’ Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act.
  • H.R. 1963 (Daines), the Bureau of Reclamation Conduit Hydropower Development Equity and Jobs Act.
  • H.R. 2824 (Johnson of Ohio), the Preventing Government Water and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America Act.
  • H.R. 2640 (Walden), the Central Oregon Jobs and Water Security Act.

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Committee Passes Legislation to Ensure Predictable and Fair Cabin Fees for Americans in our National Forests

2014/09/18

Today, the House Natural Resources Committee passed H.R. 5476, the Cabin Fee Act of 2014, by unanimous consent. This bill, sponsored by Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04), modifies the current cabin fee formula to make it more predictable and fair for families who own cabins in our National Forests.

Many cabins in our National Forests have been passed down within a family for several generations; however cabin owners have recently been faced with arbitrary, skyrocketing fees as a result of a faulty appraisal system that has allowed annual cabin fees to increase exponentially.  Unable to afford the mounting fees, owners are faced with the choice of selling their cabins or abandoning and tearing them down.  The Cabin Fee Act of 2014 uses a new formula for calculating fees to ensure that fees are not beyond the reach of American families.

Family cabins in our National Forests have provided outdoor recreation opportunities on our public lands for nearly 100 years. I am pleased that our Committee has voted in support of a bill aimed at bringing fairness and consistency to the cabin fee system by establishing a simple, predictable fee-setting system based on a tiered structure. I am told that many cabin owners are already falling behind in their payments, so passage of this bill is an urgent matter,” said House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04).

Background

  • In 1915, the National Forest Service established the Recreation Resident Program that set aside a small number of residential lots for Americans to build recreational cabins on federal land. The individuals own the cabin structures and pay a yearly fee for the use of the Forest Service lot. There are currently over 14,000 recreational cabin owners across the United States – the majority in the West.
  • In 2000, Congress adopted Public Law 106-291 that included a change in the law to implement variable cabin fees based on a subjective appraisal system. This change in the law has resulted in much higher fees than anticipated due to the difficulty in making appraisals that fully take into consideration the uniqueness of the cabins and the many uncommon variables when compared to typical homes and real estate. With few, or no, true comparable sales, resulting appraisals are subjective and may involve arbitrary determinations.

 

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Chairman Hastings: Senate Must Join House in Acting to Provide Better Stewardship over Federal Forest Lands

2014/09/18

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04) delivered the following statement on the House floor today in support of H.R. 4, the Jobs for America Act.



"Mr. Speaker,

This jobs package includes important legislation – H.R. 1526, the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act – which passed this House almost exactly one year ago.  It is a long-term, sustainable solution to put Americans back to work, restore forest health, and prevent wildfires.

Our national forests, unless otherwise designated, should be open for multiple-uses for everything from recreation to job-creating economic activities.  Instead, due to onerous federal regulations and litigation, our federal forests have increasingly been shut down.  Timber harvests have dropped by 80 percent in the last 30 years 

We have seen catastrophic wildfires burn houses to the ground and destroy our federal forests.  We have seen loggers, mill workers, and truck drivers put out of work.  We have seen rural communities turned into ghost towns.

It is long past time for the Senate to join with the House to provide better stewardship over federal forest lands.  It’s disappointing, and frankly unacceptable, that a year later the Senate is still sitting on the sidelines.  Meanwhile, rural communities continue to suffer. 

This legislation requires responsible timber production on at least half of the Forest Service’s non-environmentally sensitive timber lands.  By restoring active forest management, this bill will create over 200,000 direct and indirect jobs. 

It also maintains and strengthens the historic sharing of timber receipts with local counties, which is essential given the upcoming expiration of the Secure Rural Schools program. 

Finally, instead of having to pay for wildfire suppression, this bill would allow us to reap the benefits of a responsible timber harvest that reduces wildfire threats to our communities.

Congress must act to restore the promise the Federal government made over a century ago to actively manage our forests and create needed jobs for the benefit of rural communities.   Today the House is – once again – living up to this promise.  We hope the Senate will join us and support common sense reform of federal forest management. ”

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Chairman Hastings: It’s Time to Expand American Energy Production

2014/09/18

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04) delivered the following statement on the House floor today in support of H.R. 2, the American Energy Solutions for Lower Costs and More American Jobs Act.



 

“Mr. Speaker –

I stand here on the House Floor, only a few hundred yards away from the Senate, and it feels like we are worlds apart.  In the House, we are listening to the American people who are telling us that it’s time to expand American energy production.  

Hardworking Americans know how important energy is in their lives. They need it to commute to and from work.  It fuels the buses that take our kids to school. It powers the businesses on Main Street. It provides jobs and improves the livelihoods of millions of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet in President Obama’s economy. And this Sunday, it will power the jumbo-tron at CenturyLink Field in Seattle as the Seahawks take on the Broncos.

Unfortunately, on the other side of the Capitol, these calls to expand American energy production are falling on deaf ears. The House has passed dozens of energy bills, including a number from the Natural Resources Committee, on which the Senate has failed to act. By doing so, they are standing in the way of American job creation, affordable energy, and increased national security.

H.R. 2, the American Energy Solutions for Lower Costs and More American Jobs Act, would protect and expand American energy production by removing Obama Administration roadblocks and preventing unnecessary bureaucratic red-tape.  

Since President Obama took office, total federal offshore oil production has dropped 13 percent, federal offshore natural gas production has dropped by nearly one half, and the Obama Administration has placed over 85 percent of America’s offshore acreage off limits.

Onshore, it’s the same story. This Administration has had the four lowest years of federal acres leased for onshore energy production going back to 1988. It has also pledged to impose a duplicative layer of red-tape on hydraulic fracturing which would only hurt American jobs.

The Obama Administration has also waged a war on coal and on coal jobs. Coal is a reliable and affordable energy resource that provides 30 percent of America’s electricity and supports millions of American jobs. Unfortunately, with one proposed regulation by the Obama Administration, those jobs could disappear. Their rewrite of the Stream Buffer Zone Rule could cost seven thousand coal jobs and cause economic harm in 22 states.  

But there is good news. The provisions in this bill are a direct response to the Obama Administration’s actions that have locked up our energy resources.

The bill would end the regulatory delays blocking construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.  After nearly six years of review, this is a commons sense solution that would eliminate the need for a Presidential Permit, address all other necessary federal permits, and limit litigation that could delay the project.

The bill would expand offshore energy production. It would require the Obama Administration to responsibly move forward with new offshore energy production in areas that could contain the most oil and natural gas resources – including areas off the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts. It also requires the Administration to hold oil and natural gas lease sales that have been delayed or canceled – such as offshore Virginia.  This expanded offshore production would generate over $1 billion in new revenue to the federal treasury and create up to 1.2 million jobs long-term.

The bill would expand onshore energy production. It would reform the leasing and permitting process to remove unnecessary delays, set clear rules for the development of U.S. oil shale resources, and establish internet-based auctions for leases. It also would help foster expanded energy production on tribal lands.

The bill would stop the federal government from imposing duplicative federal hydraulic regulations, and prevent it from implementing job-destroying coal regulations.  It would also help protect consumers from EPA regulations that could destroy jobs and increase energy costs. 

Finally, the bill would expand production of clean, renewable hydropower by removing outdated barriers and streamlining the regulatory process. It would authorize hydropower development at existing, man-made water canals and pipes at 12 Bureau of Reclamation projects.

Mr. Speaker, The American Energy Solutions for Lower Costs and More American Jobs Act is a common sense action plan to create over one million new American jobs, provide relief to hardworking Americans who are feeling the squeeze of higher gasoline and electricity prices, strengthen our economy, and more importantly in this unsettled world, increase America’s energy security.  I urge all of my colleagues to support this important bipartisan legislation.”

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Committee Passes Legislation to Facilitate New and Expanded Water Storage Projects; Help Ease Western Drought Effects

2014/09/18

Today, the House Natural Resources Committee approved with bipartisan support three bills to address the nation’s critical need for new and expanded surface water storage projects.  H.R. 3980, the Water Supply Permit Coordinating Act, H.R. 3981, the Accelerated Revenue, Repayment, and Surface Water Storage Enhancement Act, and H.R. 5412, the Bureau of Reclamation Surface Water Storage Streamlining Act will update and improve the process for permitting and funding federal and non-federal surface water storage projects.

Multi-purpose dams and reservoirs generate affordable emission-free electricity; store water suppliers for farmers, ranchers and municipalities; tame ravaging floods; provide recreational opportunities; and provide year-round cold water flows for fisheries.  Specifically, these bills would facilitate more water storage projects; streamline the environmental planning, study, and permitting process for these projects; create a one-stop-shop for permits to expand non-federal water storage; and allow for expedited payment for water projects. The Family Farm Alliance, the National Water Resources Association and the Association of California Water Agencies support these initiatives.

Water storage has been the key to economic prosperity and a way of life in my Central Washington district, which is home to two large federal water projects,” said Chairman Doc Hastings. “Together, these water storage projects irrigate more than a million acres of farmland, make possible a vital navigation link for millions of tons of grain and commodities annually, provide numerous recreation and flood control benefits, and provide over 21 billion kilowatt hours of carbon-free, renewable hydroelectric power to customers in the Pacific Northwest. For us to have another water supply renaissance, we must embrace new or expanded storage so that we can truly have prosperous water supply strategy well into the future. We have the power to make that happen and this legislation is key to our success.”

“Under current law, districts must navigate a convoluted permitting process for the construction of new water storage in which a host of federal agencies require a dizzying array of permits, decisions, and approvals -- each disjointed from the other -- despite the fact that they are studying the same project, in the same location, and trying to evaluate the same data. To address this bureaucracy, HR 3980 would put in place a framework in which federal agencies with permitting responsibilities for the construction of new surface water storage projects must work together, coordinate their schedules, share data and technical materials, and make their findings publicly available. The end result would be fewer delays, more efficient use of taxpayer dollars, and ultimately, more abundant water supplies,” said Subcommittee on Water and Power Chairman Tom McClintock (CA-04).

Specifically:

  • H.R. 5412, the Bureau of Reclamation Surface Water Storage Streamlining Act, sponsored by Chairman Doc Hastings, will provide more accountability and accelerate studies to promote new and or expanded surface water storage projects. (Approved 23-16)
  • H.R. 3981, the Accelerated Revenue, Repayment, and Surface Water Storage Enhancement Act, sponsored by Chairman Doc Hastings, will eliminate the existing piecemeal legislative approach towards allowing water districts to prepay what they owe to the federal government.  Some of the prepayments under the bill would be dedicated to building new surface water storage. (Approved 25-16)
  • H.R. 3980, the Water Supply Permit Coordinating Act, sponsored by Water and Power Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock and Representative Cynthia Lummis (WY-At Large), will streamline the current multi-agency permitting process that delays the construction of new or expanded surface water storage by creating a one-stop-shop permitting process through the Bureau of Reclamation. (Approved 22-16)

 

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Witnesses, Members Stress the Importance of Data Sharing in Natural Resources Production & Infrastructure Projects

2014/09/17

Today, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a legislative hearing on H.R. 5066, the Data Preservation Act of 2014, authored by Natural Resources Committee Member Rep. Dan Benishek, M.D. (MI-01). This legislation would help create jobs and improve the safety of construction projects and natural resources production by ensuring that these projects are moving forward with the most up-to-date and accurate data.

Specifically, this legislation would reauthorize the National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program (NGGDPP) through 2019. This program archives and catalogues geologic, geophysical, and engineering data as well as maps, well logs, and samples to provide value beyond the initial project for which it was acquired. For example in Michigan, the donation of information from a mining company allowed for the discovery of a new potash deposit valued at $65 billion – creating jobs and growing Michigan’s economy. Potash is a key ingredient in natural fertilizers, which strengthen America’s agriculture and farming industries, food security, as well as America’s balance of trade.

“Back in the 1990s, building on the success of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, several professional geologic organizations began to push for a National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program to facilitate the acquisition, archiving and storage of mineral and core data. Each year tens of millions of private and public dollars are spent in the U.S. acquiring geologic and geophysical data by various industries and state and federal agencies. If saved, archived and stored it can be reviewed, reanalyzed and reinterpreted and can help identify and solve environmental problems, locate public safety hazards saving lives, or direct exploration geologists to possible new discoveries of energy and mineral resources,” said Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn (CO-05).

"From hunting and fishing to timber and mining, so many jobs in Northern Michigan are tied to the land. That is why maintaining accurate date about the land is so important. My bill will encourage states and universities to collaborate with local companies to preserve their mapping data for the future. We've already seen instances where new companies have been able to use this data to go back and find new information, like the recent potash discovery in Western Michigan, which media reports have estimated as being worth as much as $65 billion. The ability to access this type of data is important for jobs and our economy," said Rep. Dan Benishek, M.D. (MI-01).

Expert witnesses testified before the Subcommittee on the need for Rep. Benishek’s legislation that will allow for data collaboration, sharing, and storage of data that’s critical to creating jobs and growing America’s economy.

Jonathan D. Arthur Ph. D., P.G., is President of the Association of American State Geologists (AASG) and is the State Geologist of Florida. Arthur called this issue critical and supports the reauthorization of this important program. “The value of our Nation’s geological and geophysical data (e.g., rock and ice cores, fossils, geophysical tapes and paper logs, rock, mineral and fossil samples, aerial photos, field notes) have long been recognized. The fact that significant portions of these materials are irreplaceable due to destruction of outcrops (e.g., construction, quarrying, flooding, landslides), urbanization, restricted access, and prohibitive replacement expenses only increases their importance. If preserved, these materials and data will be invaluable for the next generation of scientific research and education.” This valuable data is crucial to saving lives and locating natural resources that are needed to power America. “Not only are geological and geophysical data at risk, but scientific clues revealing undiscovered water, mineral and energy resources may be lost, and more importantly, data that can save lives may be lost. This cooperative Federal-State program affords the Nation the opportunity to more fully understand the reserves of water resources and mineral and energy reserves in our lands.”

Theodore A. Pagano, P.G., P.E., is the General Manager at Michigan Potash Company, LLC. Pagano knows firsthand the benefits of sharing this data. It was the sharing of geological data through the Michigan Geological Repository for Research and Education (MGRRE), that was created through the NGGDPP, which allowed for the discovery of a major potash deposit in Michigan. Calling potash the “world’s tightest controlled commodity,” Pagano added that ‘there is enough proven, commercial, potash sitting under Hersey Michigan to double U.S. output for over 150 years, and that’s without drilling any new test wells.” Underscoring the importance of this discovery, Pagano noted that according to MGRRE’s founder, William B. Harrison III, “One of the things that makes this so valuable is that it is an incredibly rich deposit that is in easy reach of the enormous demand from Midwest corn and soybean farmers who operate within a 500-mile radius of this deposit. This is an opportunity for new wealth to come from the use of natural resources never tapped before.”  

Patrick J. Gooding is the Research Geologist and Manager at the Kentucky Geological Survey’s Well Sample and Core Library. Gooding called the detailed examination of geoscience data important to “research development, discoveries, exploration or new hydrocarbon reservoirs and mineral deposits critical to U.S. energy security and independence.” Highlighting the importance of these data repositories, Gooding noted that they are essential to preserving geoscience data in order to promote the “utilization of their collections in scientific research, exploration, and development of resources both on and beneath the earth’s surface.”

Kevin Gallagher is the Associate Director of Core Science Systems at the U.S. Geological Survey at the Department of the Interior. Gallagher thanked Rep. Benishek for introducing this legislation to ensure the “rescue and continued preservation of geological and geophysical samples and data.” Gallagher added that “preserving endangered geoscience collections is significantly more cost effective than recollecting these samples and data. Properly housing, inventorying and curating these collections, as we have identified for you today, provides an invaluable resource that underpins a wide variety of research, which can lead to important discoveries, new jobs and a stronger economy.”

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Hastings’ Water Storage Legislation Needed to Combat Western Water Supply Issues by Facilitating More Surface Water Storage

2014/09/10

Today, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power held a legislative hearing on H.R. 5412, the Bureau of Reclamation Surface Water Storage Streamlining Act.  The legislation, introduced by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA 04), streamlines the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental planning and study process for new surface water storage projects in order to help facilitate the construction of new or expanded dams and reservoirs. The bill mirrors the process that was applied to the Corps of Engineers in the recently enacted Water Resources Development Act by setting the same standards and expectations for the Bureau of Reclamation to become more transparent and accountable in how it operates.  

Multi-purpose dams and reservoirs can generate affordable emission-free electricity; store water suppliers for farmers, ranchers and municipalities; tame ravaging floods; provide recreational opportunities; and provide year-round cold water flows for fisheries.  The Bureau of Reclamation Surface Water Storage Streamlining Act will facilitate the construction of new dams and reservoirs throughout the Western United States and will add much needed water storage, reform the cumbersome and lengthy permitting process, and create renewable energy.

It is painfully clear, given the Bureau of Reclamation’s inaction on storage in California, that the agency’s feasibility study process needs to be modernized in a productive way,” said Chairman Doc Hastings. “For this reason, I’ve introduced the Bureau of Reclamation Surface Water Storage Streamlining Act.   It’s a common sense bill based on the precedent of the newly enacted Water Resources Reform and Development Act, or WRDA, that only four Members of this House opposed.”

Water conservation is critically important in managing a temporary shortage – but it does nothing to add supply.  What we are now discovering is that by exhausting conservation measures in wet years, we have no latitude to manage a drought when it comes.  If this current crisis teaches us anything, it must be that there is no substitute for adding supply, and this bill – and others recently heard by the subcommittee --  begin to restore this process for a new generation that is now paying dearly for the mistakes of their predecessors.,” said Subcommittee on Water and Power Chairman Tom McClintock (CA-04).

Witnesses at the hearing testified on the need for a legislative solution and impacts of the proposed Obama Administration regulations, including higher food, water, and electricity costs, undermining of states’ rights; and current and future water supply infrastructure.

Mr. Dan Keppen, Executive Director, Family Farm Alliance, Klamath Falls Oregon, testified that new or expanded water storage is necessary and conservation alone cannot solve the water supply problems currently crippling the west.  “As you are all aware, actually developing new storage projects is much easier said than done. For many reasons – political, economic, and social – the construction of traditional surface storage projects is undertaken on a much more limited basis than in decades past. Even if authorization and funding is secured for a new storage project, the existing procedures for developing additional water supplies can make project approval incredibly burdensome…  Clearly, the existing procedures for developing additional water supplies need to be revised to make project approval less burdensome.”

Mr. Bennett Raley, Attorney for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and representing the National Water Resources Association, Denver, Colorado, testified on the need for storage projects in Colorado and the benefits of legislation to encourage and promote new and existing water storage.  "Northern Water is not alone in working to develop water supply opportunities that are sensitive to environmental needs without triggering the complex, costly and time-consuming process for federal water supply projects. Water providers throughout the West are seeking similar non-federal solutions. However, given the importance and prominence of Reclamation facilities in many regions, a non-federal project approach is not always available, and meeting the needs of the future will likely require that existing federal reclamation projects throughout the West be optimized to allow additional storage or that unused capacity in existing Reclamation projects be made available to provide to better manage available non-federal water resources.”

Mr. Jeffrey Sutton, General Manager, Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority, Willows, California, testified on California’s need for increased water storage projects. “The “Bureau of Reclamation Surface Water Storage Streamlining Act” consists of a number of common sense proposals directed at removing unnecessary bureaucratic impediments to new storage in a manner that would provide additional water supply certainty to the businesses, individuals and wildlife whose wellbeing and, in many cases, survival is inextricably linked to the importance of congressional action to mitigate the adverse impacts of future droughts.”

 

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Hastings: Admin’s Response to Oversight Requests Shameful

2014/09/10

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04) delivered the following opening statement at today’s Full Committee oversight hearing entitled The Status of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Responses to Committee Subpoenas and the Continued Lack of Transparency about Its Implementation and Enforcement of American Wildlife Laws, and Oversight of the Department of the Interior’s Solicitor’s Office.

“In regards to oversight, it’s not only Congress’ right but our responsibility to hold the Executive Branch accountable for its actions and decisions.  In turn, we expect the Administration to be honest and transparent.  The reality is just the opposite.  The Obama Administration has consistently engaged in a deliberate pattern of slow-rolling its responses and purposely withholding information from Congress.

Today’s hearing will specifically examine examples of this stonewalling from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Service has failed to comply with two subpoenas for documents.  One related to the Whitebluffs Bladderpod, the second on the Administration’s approach for enforcing wildlife laws, including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. 

Despite the issuance of subpoenas, the Department continues to withhold and redact documents.  Even worse, the Department is going out of its way to provide even less information to Congress than it is to others. 

Here are three distinct examples.

In December 2013, the Service provided the Committee copies of about 1,000 pages of documents. These were exact duplicates of what the Service had already provided to the Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act.  Some of these documents were redacted while others were released in full to both the AP and the Committee.

One of those FOIA documents was this January 2013 email. Exhibit 1 in your packets. 

 

In March of this year, the Committee issued a subpoena seeking 55 specific unredacted documents and categories of other documents. In response, the Service issued another large document production.  It included the same January 2013 email (Exhibit 2).  Except this time it was redacted in several places, even though an unredacted version had already been provided to the news media and the Committee almost six months earlier.

 

In this second example (Exhibit 4) on the left is a document provided to the AP and the Committee under FOIA. It contains partial redactions.  We issued a subpoena for the unredacted document, and received the document on the right – even more redacted than the first. 

Either the Administration is incompetent or it is going out of its way to expend time and money to withhold information from Congress.

In this third example (Exhibit 5), the document on the left was released to a bird conservation group under FOIA.  Only the bottom part was redacted.  When the Service provided the same document to the Committee in June – almost the entire document was redacted.

In addition, the Service has released documents to this same bird group last year under FOIA that have NEVER been provided to the Committee – even though it was specifically covered in the parameters of the subpoena.

I would like to hear from Director Ashe today how he justifies such a blatant disregard for transparency and disrespect of Congress.  Is this what he means when he talks about being responsive and cooperating with congressional oversight?

The Interior Department has dragged its feet on every oversight issue this Committee has pursued.  It has purposefully sought ways to increase the burden, costs, and delays for responding to the Committee’s legitimate requests. 

Some claim that our requests are costly and burdensome.  However, it’s now evident that the Administration is wasting time and taxpayer dollars by going out of its way to redact documents that have already been released.   Most of their time and resources are spent figuring out which documents to purposely withhold.  Furthermore, oversight and transparency to the American taxpayers should not be considered a burden. 

We’ll also hear from the Department of the Interior Solicitor Hilary Tompkins.  The Solicitor’s Office is the legal advisor for the Department and decides which documents gets released or withheld from Congress. I intend to find out more today about the Solicitor’s involvement in redacting these documents.

There are other issues pertaining to the Solicitor’s Office that I would like to address.  Yesterday, the Committee released a report on the Department’s ethics program – identifying significant weaknesses.  Also, ahead of tomorrow’s hearing with Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall, I would like to hear the Solicitor discuss the relationship and interaction with the Department’s Office of Inspector General.

The Administration’s response to the Committee’s oversight efforts has been downright shameful.  Their actions are unjustifiable and show blatant disrespect to the transparency they promised the American people.”

Either the Administration is incompetent or it is going out of its way to expend time and money to withhold information from Congress.

In this third example (Exhibit 5), the document on the left was released to a bird conservation group under FOIA.  Only the bottom part was redacted.  When the Service provided the same document to the Committee in June – almost the entire document was redacted."

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Committee Report Identifies Weaknesses in DOI’S Ethics Program

2014/09/09

An investigative report entitled “Ethics Under Review: An Oversight Investigation into the Department of the Interior’s Ethics Program and How Recusals are Managed for Senior Officials” was released today by the House Natural Resources Committee’s majority oversight staff.  The report is the result of more than two years of investigation by Committee staff that identified weaknesses in how the Department of the Interior manages its ethics program, including the timeliness of its review of financial disclosure forms and its advice about recusals to political appointees.

Tomorrow, Department of the Interior Solicitor Hilary Tompkins will be testifying at a Full Committee oversight hearing.  The Department’s Office of the Solicitor is the chief legal advisor for the entire Department of the Interior and oversees the Department’s Ethics Office.

For decades, under both Democrat and Republican Administrations, there have been problems with the ethics program at the Department of the Interior.  These problems appear to be ongoing and should be directly addressed.  A strong, independent ethics program is necessary to ensure the integrity of the Department’s actions and officials,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04).   

Specifically, the report found:

  • The Department has made improving its ethics program a goal in recent years, but challenges remain in changing a bureaucratic culture to make ethical conduct, accountability, and transparency a priority.
  • There are significant delays in the time period for reviewing financial disclosure forms used to identify potential conflicts of interest. In two examples reviewed, the Department’s ethics officials took more than 400 days to complete their review and approve financial disclosure forms for two senior officials.
  • The Department’s senior ethics official says she was directed not to interact with or provide advice directly to political appointees without receiving management approval.
  • The Department lacks a systematic way of tracking recusals, which increases the potential that officials will be contacted about or become involved in matters they are recused from.

The report also examined two specific ethics cases involving former Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Robert Abbey and Former Counselor to the Secretary Steve Black.

  • Although Abbey was recused from matters involving his former consulting firm, he continued to interact with his a former business partner on both personal matters and official business. The former business partner was often contacted to act as a go between with Abbey and appears to have served as an informal advisor.
  • Black promoted a renewable energy project to the White House involving his girlfriend’s employer and reported his relationship to Department ethics officials only after meeting with a company official and receiving an email discussing her possible transfer from the company’s California office to Washington, D.C.  In the six months between when Black first reported his relationship with a lobbyist for the company and he was advised to recuse himself, he continued to work on specific matters involving the company and meet with senior company officials.

 

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Contact Information

1324 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone 202-225-2761
Fax 202-225-5929
naturalresources.house.gov


Membership

Dan Benishek

MICHIGAN's 1st DISTRICT

Rob Bishop

UTAH's 1st DISTRICT

Paul Broun

GEORGIA's 10th DISTRICT

Bradley Byrne

ALABAMA's 1st DISTRICT

Kevin Cramer

NORTH DAKOTA

Steve Daines

MONTANA

Jeff Duncan

SOUTH CAROLINA's 3rd DISTRICT

John Fleming

LOUISIANA's 4th DISTRICT

Bill Flores

TEXAS' 17th DISTRICT

Louie Gohmert

TEXAS' 1st DISTRICT

Paul Gosar

ARIZONA's 4th DISTRICT

Doc Hastings

WASHINGTON's 4th DISTRICT

Raul Labrador

IDAHO's 1st DISTRICT

Doug LaMalfa

CALIFORNIA's 1st DISTRICT

Doug Lamborn

COLORADO's 5th DISTRICT

Cynthia Lummis

WYOMING

Vance McAllister

LOUISIANA's 5th DISTRICT

Tom McClintock

CALIFORNIA's 4th DISTRICT

Markwayne Mullin

OKLAHOMA's 2nd DISTRICT

Jon Runyan

NEW JERSEY's 3rd DISTRICT

Jason Smith

MISSOURI's 8th DISTRICT

Steve Southerland

FLORIDA's 2nd DISTRICT

Glenn Thompson

PENNSYLVANIA's 5th DISTRICT

Scott Tipton

COLORADO's 3rd DISTRICT

Rob Wittman

VIRGINIA's 1st DISTRICT

Donald Young

ALASKA