On Friday, February 17, 2017, Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) sent a letter to Acting Administrator McCabe at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requesting an extension to the comment period for the proposed rule, “Financial Responsibility Requirements Under CERCLA §108(b) for Classes of Facilities in the Hardrock Mining Industry,” that was published in the Federal Register on January 11, 2017. Given the complexity and length of the proposed rule – and its considerable impact on the mining industry – committee leaders are asking that the EPA grant a 120-day extension of the public comment period to at least July 10, 2017.
EPA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) for the proposed rule estimates the financial impact of this rule to be over $7.1 billion dollars and requires the mining industry to incur up to $171 million dollars per year in new financial assurance costs. Despite the complexity of this rule, and the lack of information sought from or provided to stakeholders in preparation of the proposal, EPA has only provided a 60-day comment period, which is currently slated to end on March 13, 2017.
In the letter, Bishop, Walden and Shuster relay, “…The Proposed Rule is a significant rulemaking that will have a considerable impact on the mining industry.” The committee leaders note that the proposed rule is extremely technical and the rulemaking docket contains over 200,000 documents. The proposal includes a complex statistical model that EPA developed to calculate financial assurance obligations and that EPA declined to share critical information about the development of the model despite Congressional requests.
Chairmen Bishop, Walden and Shuster also state, “The rulemaking docket has quadrupled since the Proposed Rule’s publication date and now contains over 2,300 technical documents to support the Proposed Rule. It is obvious that the 60-day comment period set by EPA is wholly inadequate to evaluate the proposal and the voluminous supporting information and to prepare meaningful public comments.”
Finally adding, “While we recognize the importance of financial assurance, we are especially concerned about the transparency of the process and that EPA failed to adequately seek public input during preparation of the Proposed Rule and in particular, the statistical model.”Read the letter online HERE. Read More
Today, President Donald J. Trump signed H.J. Res 38 (Reps. Bill Johnson, R-OH, Evan Jenkins, R-WV, and David McKinley, R-WV), a joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act related to the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s (OSM) final Stream Protection Rule (SPR). Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) released the following statement:
“Allowing this rule to be implemented would have been irresponsible, devastating for American jobs and an unnecessary threat to state economies and affordable energy. I want to thank President Trump for signing one of the first invocations of the CRA in two decades to halt this egregious job-killing regulation.”
“President Trump made a promise to coal miners and their families during his campaign, and today he fulfilled that promise. I was honored to be by his side at the White House as he signed my resolution. Working together, we are protecting coal jobs by preventing this Obama-era rule from taking effect – and importantly – preventing the issuance of any similar rule in the future,” Johnson said.
“This is a great day for West Virginia jobs, West Virginia miners and West Virginia energy. I was honored to join President Trump as he signed our legislation into law. Thanks to his support, we have stopped this job-killing rule once and for all and saved one third of all coal jobs in this country. I deeply appreciate the president’s support of this bill and our coal miners, and this is just the first of many solutions we have to create and protect jobs for all Americans,” Jenkins stated.
“Over the last eight years, few industries have been under attack from Washington the way the coal industry has. Because of the war on coal waged by the Obama administration, over 240 coal fired plants have closed and 83,000 people have lost their jobs,” McKinley said. “Today’s signing is a major victory for West Virginia and coal miners all across the country.”
Beginning in the 112th Congress, the House Committee on Natural Resources has led oversight efforts of the SPR. The Committee held 13 hearings on the SPR’s development and its finalization.
In addition, the House passed three bills opposing the rewrite of the SPR: H.R. 1644 in the 114th, H.R. 2824 in the 113th, and H.R. 3409 in the 112th.
The states, which regulate 97 percent of the coal mines in the U.S., were shut out of the SPR’s rule-writing process, before OSM issued the final rule on December 19, 2016.
Click here for additional information on the SPR.Read More
Today, the House passed H.J. Res. 69 sponsored by Rep. Don Young (R-AK). This joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act will overturn the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) rule on “Non-Subsistence Take of Wildlife, and Public Participation and Closure Procedures, on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska.”
“This rule violates three Congressionally passed statutes that have precedence on this particular issue. Here’s the bottom line: Alaska Department of Fish and Wildlife know exactly what they are doing. They know the area. They know the animals. This rule only stops the fish and wildlife system of Alaska from simply doing their job as they know how to do it.” Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) said during floor debate. “There are some people who might think this only deals with Alaska. Technically it does, but the problem is if this happens to Alaska this could also happen in any one of the lower 48 states. We’re simply one lawsuit away.”
“From the beginning, I said I would do everything in my power to overturn this illegal jurisdictional power grab by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Today, we’re one step closer to delivering on that commitment and eliminating a wrongful seizure of Alaska’s fish and wildlife management authority,” Chairman Emeritus Young stated. “I’m thankful to all those that played a role in moving this important resolution of disapproval, including that countless state and local stakeholders that worked with me to fight a very serious and alarming overreach by the Executive Branch. I look forward to seeing the swift consideration of H.J. Res. 69 in the Senate.”
“The Federal Lands subcommittee will spend this Congress working on legislation to restore our public lands from the policy of benign neglect that has plagued our public lands to the point that we are losing our forests in the west and that has strained the relationships between our communities and our federal agencies. The resolution sponsored by Congressman Young is an excellent start,” Subcommittee on Federal Lands Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA) said.
On August, 5, 2016, FWS issued its final rule, which seizes authority away from the State of Alaska to manage fish and wildlife for both recreational and subsistence uses on federal wildlife refuges in Alaska.
The Congressional Review Act empowers Congress to review new federal regulations issued by government agencies. With the passage of a joint resolution and the signature of the president, Congress can overrule a regulation.
Click here for additional information on the rule.Read More
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House passed H.R. 428 (Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-TX), the Red River Gradient Boundary Survey Act, to end decades of confusion over the true boundary between Texas and Oklahoma and bring certainty to landowners along the Red River. The bill passed by a vote of 250-171.
“This is a bill that helps people, people who have done nothing wrong and yet suddenly find themselves fighting the federal government to prove that land owned by their families for generations rightfully belongs to them,” Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) said during floor debate. “[The Bureau of Land Management] started this problem eight years ago and have yet to do anything to try and solve the problem. […] It is our responsibility [to] solve the problem and help people so they know what is their private property and what is not their private property and they can move on with their life. And if that is unprecedented, it’s about time we did something that is unprecedented.”
“This bill essentially requires the Bureau of Land Management to do what they should have done all along. Its passage in the House is an important step toward providing these landowners with the legal certainty they deserve. I hope we can use this momentum to get the bill passed in the Senate and then signed into law by the President,” Rep. Thornberry said. “I will continue working with the landowners, local and state officials, and Senator Cornyn until this issue is resolved once and for all.”
Click here for additional information on H.R. 428.Read More
Today, the House passed H.J. Res. 44 (Rep. Liz Cheney, WY-at large), a joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to overturn the BLM Planning 2.0 Rule. Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) gave the following remarks during floor debate:
“Planning 2.0 dilutes local and state voices and centralizes power here in Washington DC. […] This puts special interest groups above local elected officials, which is not the way it was ever intended,” Chairman Bishop said. “Counties all across the West expect their BLM officials to be responsive to their needs and manage their land with the best interest of the community in mind. Their livelihoods depend on it.”
“I am proud to work alongside my colleagues in the House and Senate to ensure the voices of countless organizations, local elected leaders and citizens from across the west were heard during this process. I look forward to continuing to work hand-in-hand with congressional leaders and the Trump Administration as we repeal regulations that stand in the way of economic growth and job creation. We know that citizens in our local communities and our elected officials are the best stewards of our land and resources. Repeal of BLM 2.0 will help restore authority where it belongs—to our states and communities," Rep. Cheney said.
Click here for additional information on the rule.
Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced their intent to grant the necessary easement to finish building the Dakota Access pipeline. Chairman Rob Bishop released the following statement:“With this approval, we can officially say goodbye to infrastructure approvals being subject to political impulse. With the Trump administration, we are returning to a time when an environmentally sound project is approved by experts that it actually goes forward. This is a win for future investment, American jobs and the rule of law.” Read More
Today, the House Committee on Natural Resources held its Organizational Meeting for the 115th Congress. During the meeting, Members adopted a rules package and oversight plan for the session.
“This Committee has played an important role at the beginning of this session with the Congressional Review Act. We will play an important role as we pivot toward infrastructure proposals, which is not just about investment but also regulatory burden. When we do the budget reconciliation, this Committee will also have a significant role,” Chairman Rob Bishop said in his opening statement.
“From empowering states, tribes and local communities to enhancing land, water, energy and resource management, the list of things on our Committee’s agenda to accomplish is long and the work is important,” Bishop added.
Chairman’s opening statement as prepared for delivery is available HERE.
The adopted Committee Rules for the 115th Congress are available HERE.
The adopted Committee Oversight Plan for the 115th Congress is available HERE.Read More
Today, the House passed H.J. Res 36 sponsored by Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT). This joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) will repeal the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) final rule on methane emissions from oil and gas operations on federal and Indian land.
“The growth of the last decade has come in spite of consistent anti-energy policies of the previous administration. It has especially hit those of us in the West very hard. The contortions BLM went through to say they had the legal authority is almost embarrassing. The contortions they went through would qualify for an opening act on the Las Vegas strip,” Chairman Bishop stated during floor debate. “This is an illegal rule and it’s a costly one. This rule’s repeal is a vote for people and making sure their lives are better, not worse.”
“Methane emissions are already regulated by both the EPA and, in my state, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, so what we saw out of the BLM was simply redundant and unnecessary,” Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) stated. “Regulations that add an additional and redundant layer of red tape on top of an already overly complex regulatory system are precisely the ones we need to prevent.”
“Oil and gas production provides our jobs and funds our education, hospitals, law enforcement and other essential services. Without it, our economy will continue to suffer. This regulation was clearly directed to appease special interest groups over the livelihood of New Mexicans and Americans across the nation, and we will not stand silently while the government decides what is in our best interest. Repealing the BLM Venting and Flaring Rule will cut the red tape that is starving America’s jobs out of this country,” Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) said.
Click here for additional information on the rule.Read More
Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) released the following statement on Senate passage of H.J. Res 38, a joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act related to the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s (OSM) final Stream Protection Rule (SPR):
“I thank Senate Majority Leader McConnell for taking swift action on this issue. It is hard to argue which is worse: the harm that this regulation would have caused the American public or the secretive, legally questionable manner in which it was written, all without the critical input from states that would have been directly impacted by it. This is a good day for those who care about hardworking American taxpayers and those who depend upon this industry for a good quality of life.
“Today is also an important marker as we go about much broader efforts, in coordination with the Trump administration, to restore the balance of power and reign in the unelected federal bureaucracy.”
The House passed H.J. Res 38 on February 1, 2017 by a vote of 228-194.Read More
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the committee, spoke Jan. 30 to Bloomberg BNA about many of the prospects. His remarks suggested a unifying thread: clarification of legal mandates governing federal agency activities.
Legislation, as described by Bishop, especially would be intended to reassert legislative control over policy and to require more cooperation with state and local governments. Federal agencies have been getting away with defying laws that mandate coordination with state and local governments, in Bishop's view.
There will be several legislative vehicles for advancing federal-state coordination. Bishop wants to see action by his committee to:
Facing Wildfires (and Senators)
It would be a busy schedule even if there were not a strong likelihood of opposition. The need to win 60 votes in the Senate for passage of most legislation means basic changes may be difficult, especially with the Republican majority reduced to 52 from 54 by the 2016 elections.
“I don't think the Senate is going to be more cooperative in the next few years than they were in the last two years,” Bishop said. “In some cases it may be worse, because it's tighter now.”
But some of the issues are essential to both parties, such as forest management to prevent wildfires and water storage in the dry West, he said.
“If we're dealing with wildfires burning up property, Democrat senators get that,” he said.
Litigation over timber harvesting and other forest management issues has been the second largest expense for the U.S. Forest Service after wildfire fighting, and Bishop said he thought senators will see the need to change that. That could involve reintroducing the Resilient Federal Forests Act, a 2015 bill to streamline permitting for timber harvesting with the idea of reducing wildfire potential and lawsuit potential at the same time.
“There's also a chance of doing something maybe even bigger and better,” Bishop said without elaborating.
Grounds for Hope Seen
Bishop became involved in negotiations in 2016 over legislation originally pulled together by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) as an uncontroversial package of energy policy ideas, such as electric grid security. In the House it acquired a much greater mix of energy, water, forest and other natural resource subjects.
It got farther than some people may have expected.
“That's one of the things that gives me hope, because I thought I had some very pleasant conversations with Murkowski as well as Cantwell,” Bishop said.
“As negotiations were going on, the resource portion of that bill actually was very close to reaching an agreement. I mean really close,” he said. “So I think we can build on that in the future.”
Much may depend on the new Senate minority leader, Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“I don't know how Schumer is, or what his propensity will be to try and move things forward,” Bishop said.
More Water Storage Sought
House Republicans and Senate Democrats also compromised on water legislation in 2016.
The Senate expanded its Water Resources Development Act into a much broader water supply and water utility assistance bill. That drew Bishop and two other House committee chairmen into negotiations that produced the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, passed in December.
The water supply portion of the bill was dominated by drought response provisions to assist California.
“We did a good start with the California process in the last session. We need to build on that,” Bishop said. “We have to have increased capacity to store the water when we get it for the next drought, which will be soon.”
‘Coordination’ Definition Wanted
Federal cooperation with states over environmental regulation is mandated by several federal laws that are important to industries and state and local governments. State officials and congressional Republicans often insist the obligation for cooperation is being flouted.
“Everyone thought they knew what coordination means,” Bishop said. “It needs to be vigorously defined so that coordination does take place, because it's not happening right now.”
Bishop described the Dec. 20 stream protection rule from the Interior Department as a model example of federal regulators ignoring their legal mandate. Two days after Bishop's remarks, the House voted to repeal the rule through use of the Congressional Review Act, and the Senate planned to vote on disapproving it Feb. 2.
Thirteen states sued Interior Jan. 17 over the stream protection rule (RIN:1029-AC63). They said Interior illegally issued the rule “without providing for meaningful participation by the states.”
Similar objections have been raised over amended land-use regulations issued in 2015 by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service to protect the greater sage grouse. State and local governments sued, saying the agencies ignored the obligations written into the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the National Forest Management Act to coordinate regulations with states.
Unbanning Offshore Leasing
President Barack Obama used a Dec. 20 memo to put almost all federal waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off limits to oil and gas leasing for “indefinite” time periods, excepting only rights under existing leases. Another Obama memo put 26 Atlantic underwater canyon areas off limits.
Bishop said the bans could be rescinded by President Donald Trump only to be reimposed by the next president. It would be better for Congress to address the subject, reducing the degree of uncertainty, he said.
He made it clear that he wants to eliminate any idea that one president's offshore leasing bans cannot limit a subsequent president's options.
That could mean amending the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. That also could provide an occasion for Bishop's intention to reinvigorate energy leasing.
NEPA, Antiquities Act Reviews
The National Environmental Policy Act is another candidate for review and change, in Bishop's eyes. It requires consideration of public comments, including the comments of state and local officials. It also has a declaration of policy that calls for cooperation with state and local governments.
NEPA was enacted in 1970 and has not been amended since 1982. “Anything that old needs to be reviewed,” Bishop said.
The Antiquities Act, a 1906 law, also troubles the committee chairman, as well as some state and local governments and industries. Obama used it Dec. 28 to declare the Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah, angering Bishop and many other Utah residents concerned about the economic impact of such a decision.
Congress needs to define what is an antiquity and the meaning of “smallest footprint,” Bishop said. He was referring to the law's requirement for designations to be limited to “the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”
Other proposals have been to require congressional approval of national monuments or require approvals from state legislatures. Environmental advocates say such strategies might create insurmountable barriers to more national monument designations.Click HERE to view the article online. Read More