Committee on Natural Resources

Rob Bishop

Four Governors: Federal Overreach Causing Major Problems in the West


Today, the House Committee on Natural Resources held an oversight hearing with four Western governors on “Respecting State Authority in Regards to Resource Management and Energy Development.” Governors Matt Mead (R-WY), Steve Bullock (D-MT), Dennis Daugaard (R-SD), and Gary Herbert (R-UT) all expressed major concerns about a swath of federal policies that disenfranchise the states from managing land, water, and energy resources.


Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) mentioned that several titles in H.R. 2898, the House-passed West-wide drought legislation, eases the permitting process for storage projects. Gov. Mead agreed on the importance of increasing water storage in the West and agreed that a one-stop shop approval process with the Bureau of Reclamation would be a good solution. “In Wyoming, we’re trying a 10 and 10 plan: build 10 reservoir projects in 10 years. The problem is the expanse and the time and to the extent that the federal government can act in a cooperative fashion with the states and speed up that permitting time to get things done...If we can get that done and get a fast track, that would be a tremendous boon for the West.”

Forest Fires

In an exchange with Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), Gov. Bullock affirmed that categorical exclusions would be helpful tools for managing forests and timber salvage projects to prevent wildfires, similar to what was included in the Farm Bill. He said that the categorical exclusions (CE) in the Farm Bill was a “game changer” because it “provides the opportunity for both collaboratives to work together and governors to actually designate lands to get projects moving.”  The House recently passed H.R. 2647, the Federal Forest Resilience Act, which would give the Forest Service the tools it needs to thin overgrown forests and reforest after wildfires through expanded CEs.

Waters of the United States

Rep. Darin Lahood (R-IL) asked the Governors about the impact of the EPA’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule on their states. All four governors discussed how the WOTUS rule has adverse impacts for their states’ economies and bullies its way into the state jurisdiction of water. Gov. Herbert explained it will “create a whole different set of problems and federal overreach into what has historically been a state domain. The control and management of water has always been a state issue, not a federal one.”


Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) asked the governors whether they would consider lifting the crude oil export ban, an action that, according to the Energy Information Administration, would increase oil development on federal land. Governors Mead, Herbert, and Daugaard agreed that the ban should be lifted. Gov. Herbert responded, “I think it is better for America, it is better for the states, it is better for the economy. We ought to let the market place work and export your products where there is a consumer.”

Endangered Species Act

Citing the abysmal failure rate (3%) of species coming off of the Endangered Species Act list, Gov. Mead said, "ESA is not working. States should be consulted before listing and the data from the states should be used. It's hurtful to species because we're wasting time on species that have long since proved they've recovered instead of working on species that actually need help."

Hydraulic Fracturing 

In a question asked by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) Governors Herbert and Mead both agreed that the Bureau of Land Management never alleged that state regulation of hydraulic fracturing on federal land was insufficient.

Gov. Mead said, “We have shown leadership and other states have shown leadership…one way you can get more money [for energy] is to… let the states regulate where they have proven to do so well.

Please click here for more information regarding the hearing. 
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Bishop Responds to Federal District Court of Wyoming Decision to Halt BLM Hydraulic Fracturing Rule


Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) responded to the Federal District Court of Wyoming decision to uphold the preliminary injunction on the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) hydraulic fracturing rule, which stated that, “Congress has not authorized or delegated to the BLM authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing and, under our constitutional structure, it is only through Congressional action that the BLM can acquire this authority.

“The BLM’s hydraulic fracturing rule will cause major harm to states, industry, and the American people if implemented, so much so that the Wyoming District Court blocked the implementation until further analysis,” Bishop said. “This judicial decision is the right decision because it stops the Obama Administration from shoving this harmful policy down the states’ throats. This decision and the testimony from today’s hearing from four Western Governors solidifies that this rule is both unjustified and unconstitutional.”

At the Natural Resources Committee hearing today, Governors Gary Herbert (UT) and Matt Mead (WY) agreed that the BLM never alleged that state regulation of hydraulic fracturing on federal land was insufficient. Gov. Mead said, “We have shown leadership and other states have shown leadership…one way you can get more money [for energy] is to… let the states regulate where they have proven to do so well.

Please click here for more information regarding the hearing.


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Committee Pushes Back on Potential Marine Monument Designations


Today, the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held an oversight hearing on the designations of Marine National Monuments, which are unilateral executive actions that usurp established regional fisheries management plans and impose significant economic and environmental impacts regionally and nationwide.

In particular, the hearing focused on the threat of Marine National Monument designations off Cape Cod in New England and the Aleutian Islands in Alaska under the Antiquities Act of 1906. President Obama has already expanded existing Marine National Monuments by more than 400,000 square miles, an area larger than the states of Texas and New Mexico combined.

Members and witnesses reviewed the utter lack of public input in prior unilateral monument designations and the adverse effects posed by potential future designations to America’s fisheries and the thousands of jobs supported by the seafood industry.

“[t]he impact of these potential designations would be devastating to the local communities and economies, there is much more at stake here. According to federal statistics, the North Pacific and New England rank one and two in total landings revenue by region – well over half of U.S. harvested seafood landings. The only thing monumental in all of this is the staggering impact it could have on our seafood markets,” Subcommittee Chairman John Fleming (R-LA) stated.  

Our food supply is already being compromised by natural drought and land and water regulation and now we have environmental activists using a deeply flawed law in an attempt to close commercial fishing off the coasts of Alaska and New England. It’s no doubt they are banking on this Administration to help,” stated Vice-chair Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ). 

Jon Williams, President of the Atlantic Red Crab Company, served as a witness for the hearing and stressed the lack of public input in the designation process and the faulty data used to justify the designation.

There are no imminent threats to the Continental Shelf Canyons or the Atlantic seamounts from the Atlantic red crab industry or the other fisheries that operate in the proposed area. After spending millions of taxpayer dollars exploring and photographing these canyons, there has yet to be one shred of evidence of any damage caused by red crab fishing gear—even the supporters of the proposal have called these areas “pristine” after 40 years of red crab fishing,” Williams stated.  

“The most troublesome thing about the use of the Antiquities Act to create marine national monuments is the complete lack of meaningful public input,” Williams added.

Please click here for more information regarding the hearing.


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Bishop: Special Interests Will Not Prevent Congress from Modernizing LWCF, Protecting State and Local Recreational Access


House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) today issued the following statement on efforts to modernize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Act of 1965.

“Both Republicans and Democrats support the original intent of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, but the program has drifted far from the original intent.  Under my chairmanship, the status quo will be challenged.  Any reauthorization of LWCF will, among other improvements, prioritize local communities as originally intended.”

“Special interests that seek to hijack LWCF to continue to expand the federal estate and divert even more monies away from localities conveniently claim the world is ending on September 30th.  The only thing that expires on September 30th is the ability to accrue additional revenues into the fund, which currently has an unappropriated balance of $20 billion in taxpayer dollars. How many billions more do these special interests group need?”

Under the original LWCF authorization in 1965, 60 percent of the funds in the program were specifically set aside for the Stateside Program. Last year, Stateside received just 16 percent of LWCF funds.


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Chairman Bishop, Senator Daines, and Rep. Westerman Announce Press Call to Discuss Wildfire Legislation and Funding


On Wednesday, September 23, 2015 at 4:00PM EST, Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), and Representative Bruce Westerman (R-AR) will hold a press call to discuss catastrophic wildfire legislation and the Obama Administration’s recent request to Congress for wildfire suppression funding. Details are as follows:



Chairman Rob Bishop, Senator Steve Daines, and Representative Bruce Westerman discuss path forward on wildfire legislation


Wednesday, September 23, 2015
4:00PM EST


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Bishop: Sage Grouse Decision Is De Facto Listing Aimed at Controlling the West


House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) today issued the following statement in response to the Obama Administration’s decision on the greater sage grouse.

“Do not be fooled. The announcement not to list the sage grouse is a cynical ploy.  With the stroke of a pen, the Obama Administration’s oppressive land management plan is the same as a listing. Now, successful conservation done at the state level will be in vain. The new command and control federal plan will not help the bird, but it will control the West, which is the real goal of the Obama Administration. Some Western governors see this for what it is and I will work with them to ensure the rational plans created at the grassroots level that solve the problem will be the way forward to protect this bird."

More information: 
  • In 2011, as part of a “mega-settlement” with the WildEarth Guardians, the Department of the Interior (DOI) agreed to review the status of hundreds of candidate species, including the Sage Grouse. DOI was under a court-ordered September 30, 2015 deadline to make the resource management plans leading to its final listing determination.
  • These 98 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land management plans, which rarely are ever amended, will regulate energy, agricultural, and other economic activities on hundreds of millions of acres in Western states, restricting local, tribal, state and private property owners use of their own lands as BLM dictates.

  • The measures announced today in the BLM’s plans cater to the Interior Department’s arbitrary, court settlement deadlines negotiated with litigious groups as opposed to transparent data, actual scientific or effective conservation. 

  • The Committee will hold a full committee hearing entitled “Respecting State Authority, Responsibilities and Expertise Regarding Resource Management and Energy Development” on September 30th.


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Resurrecting 'Eureka' in California


OP-ED: Resurrecting 'Eureka' in California
National Review
Chairman Rob Bishop (UT-01)
September 21, 2015

“Eureka!” (“I have found it.”) Coined for the discovery of gold that brought adventurers and entrepreneurs flocking to the elusive western border of our continent, California’s state motto has held true for generations: It’s a uniquely American sentiment, inspired by California’s mountains, desert, ocean, and valley. Americans of all ages and backgrounds for several generations flocked to this place of hope on the West Coast in response to its credo that dreams are achievable.

Today, the California dream is at risk. The optimism for which California is renowned is being choked by drought. The water crisis crippling the state is not simply the result of prolonged severe-weather patterns. The radical special interests of the Left are driving the effects of the drought from bad to catastrophic. Man-made water diversions are creating unemployment and eroding the very fabric of a way of life in parts of the state.

Despite the natural drought, big-money, agenda-driven environmental groups have put pressure on lawmakers and judges to divert billions of gallons of water away from communities that desperately need it, letting it run to the Pacific Ocean instead. Two major pumping stations that transferred water to communities in the San Joaquin Valley have been curtailed under the pretext of saving the three-inch Delta smelt. The Delta-smelt population has not increased while litigation and judicial rulings continue the status quo of flushing water toward the fish. Meanwhile, federal bureaucratic “paralysis by analysis” has stymied construction and improvement of dams, the primary means of capturing, storing, and distributing water throughout the west. Indeed, the last major federal dam built in California opened in 1979, and the bulk of the infrastructure connecting major population centers in the state was built a decade before.

The human consequences of these policies are appalling. Last year, the unemployment rate in Fresno County, an area among the worst in suffering from lack of water, was double the national average. Statewide, more than 400,000 acres of farmland were fallowed last year. This year, this number could be more than double that. California is home to industries ranging from oil to agriculture, from Silicon Valley to Hollywood. Its more than 77,000 farms and ranches export more than 400 agricultural commodities, worth tens of billions of dollars annually. These industries, like all human life, are ultimately sustained by water. Without water, crops cannot be grown, rural jobs and economies cannot be sustained, energy cannot be developed, and new technologies cannot be created. Leading U.S. demographer (and Californian) Joel Kotkin put it best when he recently wrote, “As a result, the great American land of opportunity is devolving into something that resembles feudalism, a society dominated by rich and poor, with little opportunity for upward mobility for the state’s middle and working classes.”

California and other areas of the west are drying up while the Left only howls “climate change.” Make no mistake, when they demand a response to climate change, only one response will suffice: control. At the expense of millions of people, ideological elites seek increased control over which communities receive water and which communities run dry, control over which industries thrive and which industries fail. California’s Hispanic population, a significant number of whom rely on work in the Central Valley’s farming communities, have been disproportionately hurt by the Left’s water-control policies. This control will never change the temperature, but it will change people’s lives. Like all top-down control, it will make the people of California poorer and less free. The proof is in the pudding: People are fleeing California in droves for freer, more prosperous states such as Texas. If “Eureka” comes from the ancient Greek for “I have found it!” it seems as if many Californians are now saying, “I have had it!”

As chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources in the U.S. House of Representatives, I refuse to cede to worn out ideologically driven presumptions. Rather, I believe that human beings can live harmoniously with our environment without deprivation, and that human entrepreneurship and technology can solve difficult problems — even one as serious as the drought in the west and California specifically.

Those who disagree with the first precept must look at the history of California. California and the west were able to be settled in the first place only because of the complex system of dams, irrigation, and canals that government and industry designed and erected in the 19th and 20th centuries, which captured water in the northern part of the state and transferred it to the drier areas in the arid south (the very infrastructure that current policies want to undermine). Spurred on by the “Eureka!” revelation in the gold rush, human innovation transformed a tough habitat for mammals into thriving cities and lush farmland. Animals, plants, and people have flourished as a result.

Those who continue to be pessimistic about the ability of human beings and technology to solve serious problems should look no further than to the people of the Golden State. Hollywood has certainly changed the way the world views America. It has helped our nation tell the world’s stories, providing us a powerful and dynamic platform; and it has at times promoted the freedoms and adventures that living in America brings. Once a desert, California’s farming industry has given us a lush breadbasket that feeds our great nation. Half of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts consumed in the U.S. are grown in California. It has been the inspiration for great American novels, including Of Mice and Men. Silicon Valley is perhaps the trademark industry of the 21st century. The iPhone has literally transformed the way human beings interact. California’s oil producers are harnessing new energy from centuries-old fields, ushering us into an American energy age that is bolstering our diplomatic power on the global stage. These industries — and others — and the Californians who create them and rely on them are in peril if the current water crisis is not resolved through better short-term and long-term policies.

If Californians can change the world, our nation can certainly solve the problems resulting from the western drought. Walter Russell Mead was appropriately blunt when he wrote, earlier this year: “That our largest state is a hopeless muddle, its infrastructure is in disarray, and its cost structure is increasingly uneconomic — this isn’t something that the rest of the country can just slough off. This is a national concern partly because the U.S. economy can’t do really well if California is sick; and partly because many of the same problems now choking California have taken root in other states as well as at the federal level.”

More centralized command and control, including more rationing and more regulation, will only exacerbate the water crisis. What is now needed is the very innovation, hard work, and entrepreneurial spirit that sparked “Eureka!” and the settlement of California. In July, the House of Representatives passed creative, bipartisan legislation in keeping with these American values. It prioritizes people over ideology so that Californians can get the water they need, now and into the future. This legislation encourages water storage for the long term and streamlines infrastructure permits so that we can capture water in wet seasons in order to survive the dry ones. I am hopeful that the Senate will consider and act on this critical legislation and other measures and that it is signed into law by the president, so that the western water crisis will begin to be addressed and that California and other drought-stricken areas in the West will be once again a thriving region of hope and opportunity.

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Bloomberg BNA: Wildfires May Spur FY 2016 Funding Changes While Leaving Policy Issues for Another Day


The severe fire season in western U.S. forests has intensified calls for funding changes so that the U.S. Forest Service does not have to borrow money from other accounts to finish out a fiscal year of wildfire suppression.

The situation has revived the question of whether a solution can be accomplished through fiscal changes alone or whether a stepped-up level of active forest management is needed, with legal changes to reduce litigation and the time it takes to get projects approved. One possibility is a continuing resolution for fiscal year 2016 appropriations that would include a provision to halt, at least for one fiscal year, what is called “fire borrowing.”

Wait to see what gets written into a continuing resolution now being drafted, said Robert Dillon, a spokesman for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. A continuing resolution could adopt language on wildfire suppression funding already written into the Senate appropriations bill for Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, Dillon said Sept. 16.

That was a possibility, though it was not a fix of the underlying problems of forest management, said Parish Braden, a spokesman for Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

“If we get jammed on just a fire-borrowing fix, we’ll be in the same fix next year,” Braden said.

Need Investments, Officials Say

A joint Sept. 15 letter from top Obama administration officials called for funding changes through adjustments in the Budget Control Act of 2011 without a mention of policy changes in terms of how forest management is to be accomplished. The administration letter essentially pinned its hopes on budgeting.

The first step need was an adjustment in spending caps under the Budget Control Act of 2011 (Pub. L. No. 113-76) to allow more spending on fire suppression, the letter said.

The second step needed was to “invest additional resources in forest and rangeland restoration and management,” the letter said.

It was signed by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and White House Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan.

Need Better Policy, Bishop Says

In the House, Bishop responded the same day saying in a state: “Change the way we pay for wildfire suppression is only one small part of a much more serious land management crisis.”

Bishop pointed to the House-passed Resilient Federal Forests Act (H.R. 2647), which would streamline environmental reviews and reduce litigation. The House passed the bill July 9 (132 DEN A-15, 7/10/15).

For many Democrats and environmental activists, revisions to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) obligations and reduced use of court action would increase the risks of environmental harm and injustice.

Jewell, Vilsack and Donovan used their letter to reiterate administration opposition to the bill.

The administrate letter instead expressed support for the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (H.R. 167) and a bill of the same name in the Senate (S. 235) that would revise funding but not other policies.

8.5 Million Acres Burned

So far this year, wildfires have burned 8.5 million acres of forest, killed several firefighters and destroyed hundreds of homes. The pressure to jump ahead with changes to funding  may be irresistible in Congress, though it does not mean other actions will be set aside.

In the Senate, Murkowski still plans to get started on forest management changes with a hearing later this year, her spokesman said.

Like Bishop and Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Murkowski has said she wants to address underlying causes of severe fires.

But Tidwell has resisted calls for NEPA changes and reduced access to courts. Where he agrees with Murkowski and Bishop is on the need for more actions such as thinning overgrown forests and reducing the presence of hazardous fuels, including dead trees.

The Forest Service has been treating about 3 million acres a year through measures such as prescribed burns and thinning projects, according to service data. The service also says there are close to 60 million acres in urgent need of treatment.  

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Bishop: “You violated the law. Period.”


Today, the House Committee on Natural Resources held a joint hearing with the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Animas River spill, which resulted in 3 million gallons of toxic water spilling into the Animas and San Juan Rivers from Colorado and into New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona.

Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) questioned EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on the EPA’s failure to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service on its activities at the Gold King Mine prior to the August 5 disaster. Federal agencies are required under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to review any discretionary action they plan to undertake to see if it may affect endangered species or their critical habitat. Federal agencies have often aggressively enforced violations of the requirement against others, seeking civil and criminal penalties.  

Watch the full exchange here.



“The fact is you were anticipating this type of thing happening. The law, that you insist everyone else obey, says that you have to contact Fish and Wildlife and consult with them. The fact is you did not do it and you had over a year to accomplish that fact…A standard you make everyone else live by, you violated and you’re doing it with impunity…You violated the law, period,” Bishop stated.

Bishop cited documents (Task Order Statement of Work for EPA Region 8 prepared by Environmental Restoration, July 25, 2014) that show EPA was aware as early as June 2014 that a massive blowout was possible. 

Please click here for more information regarding the hearing.

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AP: New Mexico official says EPA refused to share water data after toxic mine spill fouled rivers


Federal regulators refused to share water-quality data for weeks following a blowout of toxic wastewater from a Colorado mine that fouled rivers across the Southwest, a New Mexico official said Thursday.

The move by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency aimed to downplay the severity of the spill, hobbling the state's response, said Ryan Flynn, New Mexico secretary of Environment and Natural Resources.

His criticisms, which came in statements prepared for delivery before a U.S. House committee investigating the Aug. 5 accident, offered more fodder for congressional Republicans eager to find fault with a federal agency they perceive as having an anti-business agenda.

An EPA cleanup team accidentally triggered the 3 million-gallon spill as it was doing excavation work on the inactive Gold King mine near Silverton, Colorado. The plume turned the Animas River there a sickly mustard yellow, and the pollution tainted with heavy metals flowed downstream to New Mexico and Utah.

EPA spokeswoman Laura Allen said water-quality test results were made public as soon as they were validated. The agency has closely coordinated with state officials and American Indians from the Navajo Nation, Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes, Allen said.

Thursday's hearing before the House committees on Natural Resources and Oversight and Government Reform was the fourth this month examining the spill. Republican lawmakers have used the events to bash the EPA for its handling of issues ranging from climate change to stream protection.

Democrats have sought to put the focus on the mining industry and ongoing pollution from tens of thousands of abandoned mines across the country.

The Colorado spill came from a cluster of century-old mines in the San Juan mountains that together discharge an estimated 330 million gallons of toxic wastewater annually, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testified. That's over 100 times more pollution than the Gold King spill.

"We were trying to get a handle on a situation that was growing increasingly dangerous," McCarthy said. "This is not the EPA's ... finest hour. But I am here to tell you that we are taking responsibility."

She added that mining companies contribute "close to zero" money to help clean up such sites under an 1872 mining law that the administration of President Barack Obama has proposed to change.

The EPA suspended cleanup work and site investigations at 10 polluted mining complexes in four states because of conditions similar to those that led to the August spill. Four sites are in Colorado, three in California, two in Montana and one in Missouri.

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Rob Bishop


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Paul Gosar


Garret Graves


Crescent Hardy


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Doug LaMalfa


Doug Lamborn


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