Committee on Natural Resources

Rob Bishop

Hiking Oil and Gas Royalty Rates Latest “Regulatory Assault” On Energy Development on Federal Lands


The Bureau of Land Management announced the first step in a plan to increase royalty rates on federal lands, the latest regulatory action on oil and natural gas development on federal lands. House Natural Resources Committee Spokeswoman Julia Bell released the following statement:

“At a time when oil and natural gas production on state and private land is up 89% since 2010, and federal production is down 10%, it’s unbelievable that we have yet another regulatory assault from the Obama administration on energy development on federal lands. Hiking the royalty rates will further curtail production and decrease revenue flowing to the federal Treasury,” Bell said.

“Not only does the federal government want to overregulate what is already handled by the state, as in the case of the BLM fracturing rule, they want to do it much slower – and now they want to charge more money for it. The reality is not that the American people aren’t getting the right return on investment from the oil and gas industry, but the American people aren’t getting the right return on investment from the federal government, which is stunting growth and harming our energy security.

“The administration’s agenda has once again been prioritized above rural schools and communities with federal lands, most of which are in the West, that rely on revenue from energy development for education funding,” Bell concluded. Read More

Chairman Tom McClintock Opening Statement at the Subcommittee on Federal Lands Oversight Hearing


The Federal Lands sub-committee meets today to review federal land acquisition policies and their impact on communities and the environment.

Last month, this sub-committee received testimony from the government’s land management agencies regarding their 2016 budget requests.  All expressed a burning desire to vastly increase their holdings, while admitting to large and growing backlogs of deferred maintenance.  Congressman Gohmert summed up the situation nicely when he compared our land managers with the wealthy old miser whose dilapidated house had become the neighborhood eyesore while he spent all his time and money plotting to buy more and more property from his neighbors.   Lincoln summed up this proclivity by comparing it to the farmer who said, “I ain’t greedy for land – all I want is what’s next to mine.”  

That’s the issue before us today.   Most federal land acquisition is authorized under the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965.  Funds for this act come from federal OCS royalties, but are generally appropriated by Congress and thus must be evaluated each year in competition with other pressing priorities.  This 50-year old act expires in September, offering the 114th Congress an opportunity to thoroughly examine its mission and impacts and to make adjustments accordingly.
About a quarter of LWCF funding goes to the state-side grant program, which seems to have been most successful.  This is the program most members cite when extolling benefits from the LWCF.  We will hear today from Domenic Bravo, Administrator, Wyoming Division of State Parks, Historic Sites & Trails, about his state’s experience with this portion of the program.  It seems to me that because it requires a match from the states and is administered through state agencies, there has been far greater accountability in developing state parks and recreational areas with the highest public demand.

The major controversy seems to arise from sweeping federal land acquisitions and plans outlined by the agencies for as much as a 373 percent increase in spending for this purpose, as the BLM proposes.  

I have often noted that the Federal government owns just 25 percent of the land area of Washington, D.C., but owns 67 percent of the state of Alaska, 40 percent of the state of California and in the case of one county in my district, 92 percent of Alpine County, California.   When the Plantagenet kings seized just 30 percent of the land for government use, it was so damaging and so resented that no fewer than five clauses of the Magna Carta were devoted to redressing the public’s grievances.

At a prior hearing, I repeated the concerns expressed to me by the ----- fire district in the Lake Tahoe basin that excessive federal land acquisitions were steadily sapping the property tax base it relies upon for revenue.

Proponents of federal land acquisition point out that cleaning up checkerboard land ownership patterns can improve efficiency of administering these lands.  The question, though, is whether this objective is better reached by constantly expanding the federal footprint, or rather by acquiring land-locked parcels by divesting other parcels that are at the periphery of the federal holdings.  

We will soon hear from County Supervisor Robert Lovingood of San Bernardino County.  His district has lost roughly 900,000 acres of land to the federal government.  The result is a shrinking tax base for his county that undermines its ability to pay for basic public services such law enforcement, roads and public education while suppressing commerce and depressing the economy.  This is a common complaint of county supervisors throughout my district, which spans five national forests and two national parks.  

As we will hear from Shawn Regan of the Property and Environment Research Center, calls for accelerated federal land acquisitions come at a time when the federal government’s ability to manage our current holdings is conspicuously apparent. These agencies have already confessed to a maintenance backlog approaching $20 billion.  We have already lost millions of acres of precious natural forests to fire, pestilence and disease due to a forest management policy that can only be described as benign neglect.  

Annual funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund comes from the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill—it is discretionary funding, not mandatory.  It is therefore incumbent upon Congress to set priorities for the management of our public lands and whether we should be acquiring vast new holdings in light of desperate need for fire prevention, fire suppression, wildlife management and facilities maintenance and improvement.  This sub-committee will not shrink from that responsibility. With that, I’m pleased to introduce the Ranking Member.

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Additonal Hearing Details Found Here Read More

Committee Hearing Highlights States’ Frustration with Obama Administration’s Restrictive Offshore Leasing Plan


Today, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing on the Obama Administration’s Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022, released on January 27. Witnesses included Governor Pat McCrory, who testified on how federal regulatory policies governing offshore energy development are negatively impacting economic growth in North Carolina, and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Abigail Hopper.
Governor McCrory

“States such as North Carolina…can’t afford to potentially squander millions of dollars in preparation for a frontier industry that has the potential to be shut down at any time by the federal government. If we are serious about pursuing safe, responsible offshore energy development in the Atlantic, then the Obama Administration must provide states the certainty we require to start building the regulatory and structural foundation on which the industry can grow...By unleashing the energy potential off our Atlantic coasts, we will move America one step closer to energy independence and create new opportunities for all of North Carolina,” North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory testified. 

Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (UT-01), Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn (CO-5), and Committee Members Rep. Garret Graves (LA-06) and Rep. Rob Wittman (VA-01) issued the following statements following the hearing: 

“Future offshore oil and gas production is dependent upon a robust offshore lease offering. The Obama Administration’s five-year leasing plan reveals once again that its goal is not to increase energy security, despite its claims to the American people. Assuming all the leases even make it to the finalized plan, which is doubtful given this Administration’s track record, this proposal has the lowest number of lease sales since the program’s inception and contains extensive buffer zones which take valuable resources off the table for years. This plan derails the energy hopes of states and hijacks the nation’s hopes of global energy leadership,” stated Chairman Bishop

"The Obama Administration often touts that it is committed to promoting oil and gas production on federal lands, including the Outer Continental Shelf. However their draft five year lease plan contains the lowest number of lease sales in history and it can only get worse because there is no guarantee that even those few sales will remain in the final plan. Instead of continuing to lock away our energy resources, this Administration should commit to an aggressive offshore leasing strategy that clearly demonstrates a strong commitment to OCS oil and gas production that will provide for our nation's long-term energy security," stated Subcommittee Chairman Lamborn.

“Virginia has been asking for offshore leasing and exploration for the last decade, and this lease sale presents a tremendous opportunity,” Rep. Rob Wittman said. “There is broad bipartisan support for opening the Atlantic OCS for oil and gas development, as the Commonwealth stands to gain 25,000 jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity. Offshore energy production in the Atlantic Ocean will allow the U.S. to harness our domestic energy potential, decrease dependency on foreign oil, create thousands of new jobs, and generate millions in government revenue.”

“America has two choices – we can continue to import hundreds of billions of dollars of energy from Venezuela, Africa and the Middle East or we can hire American workers to produce offshore energy right here at home.  The Administration’s proposed 5-year OCS lease plan suggests the president is content with relying upon foreign countries who do not share American values to the detriment of American workers and jobs,” said Rep. Garret Graves.

More details on the hearing can be found hereRead More

Witnesses Critique Federal Land Acquisition through Land and Water Conservation Fund, Praise States’ Recreational Management


Today, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands held an oversight hearing titled, “Federal Land Acquisition and its Impacts on Communities and the Environment.”  Witness testimony focused on the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act (LWCF) of 1965, which expires on September 30, 2015.    

Under the LWCF, federal land acquisition historically has received the vast majority of the program’s funding.  The stateside program, despite far greater returns in fulfilling the intent of the 1965 law, which was to ensure greater access to outdoor recreation for the American public, only comprises a quarter of total funding. 

"Our federal lands already face billions of dollars in critical deferred maintenance projects. The National Park Service alone, for example, faces a backlog of $11.5 billion in deferred maintenance projects. These unfunded projects include deteriorating facilities, leaky waste water systems, and deficient roads, bridges, and trails. With the total federal estate now at more than 635 million acres, and the extent of the unmet management needs on those lands, spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year through the LWCF to acquire new lands is simply irresponsible,” said Shawn Regan, Research Fellow, Property and Environment Research Center. “Instead, Congress should prioritize the maintenance and care of the land and facilities that federal agencies already own over further land acquisitions. The reauthorization of the LWCF presents an opportunity for Congress to address many of the critical unfunded needs on existing federal lands and prevent further increases in the deferred maintenance backlog on federal lands."

"For the land acquired by BLM, the agency faces management mandates that work against its multiple-use management mission and basic Congressional direction. In practice, rather than multiple-use, it translates to non-use,” said Robert Lovingood, Supervisor, First District, San Bernardino County. “Federal acquisition of more lands results in further unfunded mandates that hinder multiple-use access on thousands of square miles of the public’s land. While the federal government is responsible for the Mojave National Park, the federal government didn’t take responsibility for maintaining public roads within those lands. Many of those roads are so deteriorated that they are nearly impassable. Our ultimate goal is to strike a balance between economic growth and protection of our natural resources. Endless expansion of the federal estate does not foster that goal."

"The LWCF Act was designed to create close to home recreation opportunities and originally 60% of the funds in this program were specifically set aside for state and local projects.  The remaining 40% was for federal agency land acquisition. Over the years, federal advocates have lobbied to change the program so there is no longer any state and local guarantee of funding. Since that time federal programs have taken over the vast majority of the funding,” said Domenic Bravo, CPM Administrator, Wyoming Division of State Parks. “Realigning spending with the original intent of the legislation would mean millions more spent close to home on priority projects determined by state actors who know best what local constituents want and need in terms of outdoor recreation. We all recognize the current limitations on the Federal budget. But every member of Congress can agree that the dollars invested through the LWCF State Assistance Program for local projects like parks, ball fields, pools, and playgrounds which preserve those spaces in perpetuity are very worthy investments in the future health and well-being of America."

Additional hearing details can be found hereRead More

Drought of Support for Obama Administration’s Water Agenda as Criticism Pours During Natural Resources Subcommittee Hearing


Today, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held an oversight hearing titled, “Proposed Federal Water Grabs and Their Potential Impacts on States, Water and Power Users, and Landowners.”  Witnesses testified on a range of Administration policies and regulatory actions, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) and the U.S. Forest Service’s “Groundwater Directive.”

“The Administration has a history of rolling out ill-explained and ill-informed Washington, DC-knows-best proposals in recent years only to stand down later after hearing backlash from the public.  The so-called Blueways program was the first, followed by the ski areas water clause, then followed by the Forest Service’s Groundwater Directive which could have impacted 155 National Forests, including the Kisatchie in Louisiana,” stated Subcommittee Chairman John Fleming. “The people who depend on multiple uses of our waters and public lands have felt they’ve played the Whack-a-Mole game with these Administration proposals.   There seems to be no end in sight. These proposals – and the Waters-of-the-US regulation sitting at the White House now – have been drafted under the guise of “clarifying” the authority of federal agencies. Only in Washington, DC would ‘clarification’ mean federal expansion.”

“The stringent existing requirements already make it difficult to build infrastructure to new commercial enterprises and adequately maintain right-of-way to ensure cost-effective service reliability for our members,” stated Michael J. Heinen, General Manager, Jefferson Davis Electric Cooperative, Inc., Jennings, Louisiana. “There is a tipping point where unnecessary mandates and restrictions intended to help our people become punitive and inhibit the ability of our economy to grow and our people to prosper.”  

“Regulations have a role in our society and when appropriately implement can be beneficial. However, if implemented in their current forms the pending WOTUS, Ski Area Water Rights Directive and Groundwater Directive will make it harder to meet current and future water needs for both agricultural and municipal water users,” stated Tom Myrum, President, Washington State Water Resources Association, Olympia Washington. “Meeting current and future water supply needs a major challenge. Meeting these needs will require collaboration, creativity and flexibility.”

“While the proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to redefine the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act (CWA) is meant to clarify the scope of the regulation, the current proposal has, instead, created new points of ambiguity,” James D. Ogsbury, Executive Director, Western Governors’ Association, Denver, Colorado. “…State authority is the cornerstone of effective water management in the West. This is not simply a matter of precedent; states are best situated to understand their own unique legal frameworks, local hydrology and citizen needs. Federal efforts to assume greater authority over water jeopardize the distinct advantages of having on-the-ground resource management.”

“We are partners with the federal government in providing this essential public service, and we need to be integrated into the decision-making process for policies that affect our mandate. When that process short-circuits local and state government involvement, the public suffers cost increases, bureaucratic delays, and ultimately a degraded, less efficient level of service to the public,” – Ron Sullivan, Board of Directors, Division 4, Eastern Municipal Water District, Perris, California. “The nature of groundwater varies significantly from one region of the country to another. Water rights and legal agreements affecting surface and groundwater can be complicated. The proposed Forest Service Groundwater Directive fails to recognize the nuances of geography and existing agreements and instead provides blank assumptions that may be detrimental to many long-standing water rights holders.”

Additional hearing information can be found here. Read More

Chairman John Fleming Opening Statement at the Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans Oversight Hearing


Today, the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans meets to review federal proposals that could increase water and power rates and help perpetuate drought.  

Adequate and reliable water supplies are necessary for our continued success as a nation.  

Historically, most of our water resources have been managed at the state and local levels – and rightly so.  Even federal dams and reservoirs deliver water based on the premise of state –granted water rights.  

While the federal Endangered Species Act and some federal laws continue to override some of those state water rights, this Administration has pushed the envelope with proposals aimed at super-ceding historical state and local water actions.
The Administration has a history of rolling out ill-explained and ill-informed Washington, DC-knows-best proposals in recent years only to stand down later after hearing backlash from the public.  The so-called Blueways program was the first, followed by the ski areas water clause, then followed by the Forest Service’s Groundwater Directive which could have impacted 155 National Forests, including the Kisatchie in Louisiana.

The people who depend on multiple uses of our waters and public lands have felt they’ve played the Whack-a-Mole game with these Administration proposals.   There seems to be no end in sight.

These proposals – and the Waters-of-the-US regulation sitting at the White House now – have been drafted under the guise of quote “clarifying” unquote the authority of federal agencies. Only in Washington, DC would ‘clarification’ mean federal expansion.   The end result could be federal jurisdiction over ditches and other water bodies currently regulated at the state and local levels and regulatory chaos.

These proposals would be a litigant’s dream and a private property owner’s nightmare….and potentially higher water and power rates which we will hear about today.

Throughout today, we will hear about the Administration’s inability to communicate with those most affected by these proposals.  The EPA and the Forest Service have reacted with what some have termed apology tours.  It begs the question of why they failed to engage our nation’s governors, water users  and others in the first place to help avoid this mess.  

The witnesses before us today represent some of the stakeholders who were forgotten in the federal agency process.  I would especially like to welcome the hard-working folks from the National Water Resources Association, many of which are in the audience today.  They see firsthand how these proposals will impact the water customers they serve.  

It’s telling from what the President called quote “the most transparent Administration in history” unquote  that the federal agency NWRA’s members primarily work with – the Bureau of Reclamation – refused to show up and answer questions about the potential impacts of these proposals.

I would also like to welcome Mr. Mike Heinen, the General Manager of the Jeff Davis Electric Cooperative in Jennings, Louisiana for being here today.   I commend Mike for his efforts to keep the lights on for Lousianans and for telling his story on how these proposals will make it harder for him to do so.  

It’s simply time for these federal agencies to start over and do it right.  Communication with the American people is the first step.  
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Forest Service Groundwater Directive: Proposed, On Hold, Stopped


Today, during delivered testimony before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans, the U.S. Forest Service Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon announced the decision to permanently withdraw the Proposed Directive on Groundwater Management (Groundwater Directive) that was put on the table last year. Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement in response:

“The Forest Service’s decision to pull the plug on the current Groundwater Directive is long overdue, and will finally put an end to the needless anxiety that this proposal caused. There was absolutely no justification for the Directive, and until that justification is made, there will be no Directive. State water management is primarily under the purview of the states and that’s precisely where it should stay. 

“I appreciate the Service taking our concerns about the motive of the program and the consequences of such an introduction seriously – and for making the right call.”


On March 26, at an Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee budget hearing, Chairman Rob Bishop questioned FS Chief Tom Tidwell: “May I suggest to you very carefully that because of the unanswered questions and the growing issues with this far reaching proposal that instead of a temporary hold, you simply withdraw it permanently?” 

On March 12, House Committee on Natural Resources leaders sent a letter to Chief Tidwell, urging the agency to permanently withdraw the proposed directive. This letter echoed similar concerns voiced by the Western Governors Association and others about how the proposal could usurp state management of groundwater.

On February 26, 2015, Chief Tidwell announced the Proposed Directive on Groundwater Resource Management was put temporarily put on hold but that further action would be taken.

On May 7, 2014, the Forest Service published a Proposed Directive on Groundwater Resource Management available for public comment. The original comment period was for 90 days but after requests from the Committee and stakeholders, it was extended for two comment periods. It closed on October 3, 2014. Read More

Committee Requests Information from the Office of Surface Mining on the Drafting Process of the New Stream Protection Rule


Today, House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Louie Gohmert (R-TX) sent a letter to Director of the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement (OSM) Joseph Pizarchik, requesting documents and information regarding the development of the environmental review documents for the new Stream Protection Rule (SPR). The state agencies have alleged that OSM has “not provided for meaningful participation in the process,” which is required by regulations under the National Environmental Policy Act and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s own regulations. 

The letter stated, “Consistently failing to include cooperating agencies throughout the EIS drafting process – and then making a disingenuous offer to ‘update’ the states after the rule has already been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget – is grossly insufficient and does not satisfy OSM’s legal obligations as the lead agency.”

“Despite these regulations, which clearly give cooperating agencies the right to ongoing participation, Secretary Jewell recently testified that the states would have an opportunity to comment on the Stream Protection Rule ‘when [the] rule is released and we’re in the public comment period,’” the letter continued. “Secretary Jewell’s testimony and your March 17, 2015 letter exemplify the Department’s blatant refusal to include the cooperating agencies, as the regulations require.”

Click here to view the full letter. 

Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Committee Member Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV) also signed the letter. 

On March 18, 2015 Subcommittee Chairman Lamborn questioned Director Pizarchik about the matter during the Subcommittee’s OSM budget hearing.  
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Bishop Issues Statement on Final Endangered Species Act Listing Determination for Northern Long-Eared Bat


House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (UT-01) today issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) announcement of its decision to list the northern long-eared bat (NLEB) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The population loss of the bat is primarily caused by a disease called white nose syndrome (WNS) which would not be curtailed by a listing designation. 
“This decision flouts transparency and will fail to mitigate the real menace to this species, which is a disease called white nose syndrome – not human activities. If success here is defined by controlling more of people’s land and more people’s lives, then they have succeeded. Unfortunately, the Administration and extremist environmental groups want us all to pat them on the back for labeling this species ‘threatened,’ which is a distraction from addressing WNS, the real threat to the bat.  

“There is zero accountability in the ESA listing process under this Administration. Despite repeated Committee requests of the Service to provide data and communication about the NLEB, and how this proposal will actually begin solving the WNS challenge, there has been little cooperation – and that is unacceptable. Once again, in the name of transparency, I call upon Director Ashe to release this information to the public.

“The Service’s harmful and horrendous approach points to the greater, national obligation to reform and update this outdated law for a 21st century economy. It’s time to put people and species above the dangerous demands of national, big money environmental groups who simply want to stop human development in its tracks. In this case, the economic livelihoods of families across 38 states in the East and Midwest are on the line.”

  • FWS proposed to list the bat as endangered on October 2, 2013. Since that time, the Service has delayed the final listing decision 3 times, citing disagreement over the scientific data used to support the determination. 
  • On March 4, 2015, the Committee sent FWS a letter requesting that the Service provide to the Committee by March 13, 2015, specific data and population models used to support any final listing determination, urging the Service to protect the NLEB from population loss associated with WNS, without unduly burdening economic activities that have no impact on the species. FWS has not provided this information.
  • On March 30, 2015, the Committee sent a follow-up letter to the March 4 letter to FWS, reiterating the request for any information used in the development of the proposed rule that was not included in the proposed rule. FWS has not provided this information.
  • On March 16, 2015, House and Senate Committee leaders sent FWS a letter, requesting that the Service extend the comment period and delay the listing determination for the NLEB. 
  • On March 13, 2015, 16 Member of Congress sent FWS a letter, urging the Service to provide more flexibility in the final NLEB listing proposal. 
  • On March 1, 2015, 21 Members of Congress sent FWS a letter, urging the Service to hold more public meetings and extend the comment period.
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Bishop Issues Statement on Administration’s National Ocean Policy Report


House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (UT-01) issued the following statement this evening on the Obama Administration’s release of its first Report on the Implementation of the National Ocean Policy: 

The Administration's ocean policy is similar to its approach to federal lands, particularly in the West, in that it champions new layers of federal bureaucracy over the needs of local communities and economies.

“The National Ocean Policy is essentially a White House-directed plan to implement zoning of the offshore, with multiple federal agencies in charge. This translates to red tape, bureaucracy, delays, and a blocking of a myriad of activities offshore and in inland waters that flow into the oceans. It could also pave the way for sweeping new marine monuments that could shut down a host of economic, energy— even national defense-related activities.  While for years the Administration has failed to provide statutory authority this report outlines a full endorsement of coastal and offshore Marine Spatial Planning that will impede access for both recreational and commercial fisheries, future energy development and other economic drivers for many of our coastal and adjacent states. This not only creates great economic uncertainty for these industries, but for the numerous shore-side small businesses and communities that are supported by them.”
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Dan Benishek


Rob Bishop


Bradley Byrne


Paul Cook


Jeff Denham


Jeff Duncan


John Fleming


Louie Gohmert


Paul Gosar


Garret Graves


Crescent Hardy


Jody Hice


Raul Labrador


Doug LaMalfa


Doug Lamborn


Cynthia Lummis


Tom MacArthur


Tom McClintock


Alex Mooney


Dan Newhouse


Amata Radewagen


Glenn Thompson


Bruce Westerman


Rob Wittman


Donald Young


Ryan Zinke