Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem will be delisted from the endangered species list. Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement:
“I commend this Administration and the Department of the Interior for delisting the grizzly bear even though it should have been done years ago. States are far more capable of managing the grizzly population than the federal government. The time it took to get this delisting is the latest evidence that reform of ESA is sorely needed. Recovery and delisting — and responsible state management that will prevent listings in the first place — must be the goals of ESA, not lifetime sentences on the endangered list fraught with frivolous litigation.”
Grizzly bears are currently listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Delisting the species will allow states the ability to manage populations within their borders.
The grizzly bear population was originally delisted in 2007, but relisted in 20009 following litigation. In 2016, FWS proposed to delist the grizzly bear population as former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar deemed the population “unquestionably recovered” in 2012. The population has remained either steady or increasing for close to a decade.Read More
Today, the House passed H.R. 1654, the “Water Supply Permitting Coordination Act,” by a bipartisan vote of 233-180. Introduced by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), the bill creates a “one-stop-shop” permitting process through the Bureau of Reclamation for new or expanded surface storage facilities. It streamlines agency permit requirements that sometimes impose unnecessary costs and burdens on entities seeking to construct new water storage infrastructure.
“This bill is a win for good government. It removes layers of federal bureaucracy in order to expand much needed water infrastructure at a lower cost and without undue delay,” Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) said.
“H.R. 1654 establishes 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,” McClintock stated.
Click here to learn more about the bill.
This bill is endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Association of California Water Agencies, National Water Resources Association, Municipal Water District of Orange County, Voith Hydro, New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, New Mexico Wool Growers, Inc., Agribusiness & Water Council of Arizona, La Paz County Stockmen’s, Arizona Liberty, Arizona Chapter of the Concerned Citizens for America, Arizona Pork Council, Irrigation and Electrical Districts Association of Arizona, Arizona Westside Irrigation and Electrical Districts, Electrical District No. 3 of Pinal County, Electrical District No. 4 of Pinal County, Central Arizona Irrigation and Drainage District, Maricopa-Stanfield Irrigation & Drainage District, New Magma Irrigation and Drainage District, Arizona Mining Association, Arizona Bass Nation, Arizona Deer Association, the Bass Federation, and Family Farm Alliance.Read More
Today, the Committee on Natural Resources held an oversight hearing with Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke to examine the Trump Administration’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 and new policy priorities of DOI and its subagencies.
“The shared priorities of balancing our budget, improving land management and expanding access can’t be fully achieved without broader reforms,” Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) said. “I look forward to hearing your thoughts on how this Committee can provide the administration with the tools for it to succeed.”
Last year DOI only generated $2.6 billion in revenue from offshore development, a significant decrease from $18 billion in 2008. According to Secretary Zinke, the revenue loss “could have made up our entire backlog plus three billion dollars of additional investments to fund programs and schools.”
“When you put 94 percent of all offshore holdings off limits, it has a consequence. When you decide you’re not going to cut any timber, it has a consequence. When you decide you’re not going to do anything onshore, it has a consequence,” Zinke argued.
In light of President Trump’s executive order to comprehensively review recent monument designations under the Antiquities Act, a number of Members asked Secretary Zinke about his vision for public lands, monument designations and the limits of executive power.
“There are areas within monuments that are better suited in my judgement to be national recreation areas, conservation areas,” Zinke responded. “The authority does not rest with the executive. The authority rests with [Congress].”
As litigation is often one of the most cited reasons for project delays, Members also questioned how excessive lawsuits impact the DOI’s ability to fulfill its core mission and address our nation’s infrastructure needs.
Members praised the Administration for putting forward a responsible and strategic budget that leverages the nation’s natural resources.
“The Department of Interior touches the lives of more Americans than any other Department,” Zinke stated. “Interior is not a partisan issue. Our public lands is an American issue.”
Click here to view full witness testimony.Read More
Today, the House passed H.R. 1873, the “Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act,” by a bipartisan vote of 300-118. Introduced by Reps. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR), the bipartisan bill provides streamlined processes for the removal of hazardous vegetative overgrowth within or adjacent to electricity infrastructure on federal lands.
“This bill streamlines another cumbersome federal decision making process to protect critical energy infrastructure from the threat of wildfire and consumers from costly electricity blackouts,” Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) said.
“It’s just common sense to remove a tree that is dangerously close to a power line, but current bureaucratic restrictions and red tape make that process much more difficult to do the work than it should be.” LaMalfa stated. “As a result, delayed removal of hazardous trees can lead to electrical blackouts and forest fires. This is a lose-lose situation for forest health, air quality, habitat and energy reliability, while also leading to higher energy costs for consumers. Our bill solves this problem by streamlining the process for utility companies to remove dead or dying trees that are in danger of falling on a power line and others in need of trimming, while holding the Forest Service accountable for timely approval. I’m pleased this bill passed the House with bipartisan support and I hope the Senate will soon follow.”
“Our bill ensures a safe and secure electric grid for our homes and communities, curbing the potential for blackouts or forest fires,” Schrader said. “Utility companies will now have a streamlined and consistent process for being able to fulfill their mandated responsibility to keep our communities safe, removing hazardous trees and vegetation before they create costly and deadly damage. Creating this streamlined process will save everyone money, and frankly a lot of heartache. Our bill is a great example of the bipartisan work this Congress can achieve for our neighbors at home when we put common sense ahead of politics and work together.”
Click here to learn more about the bill.
This bill is endorsed by the Western Governors’ Association, Edison Electric Institute, American Public Power Association, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Agribusiness & Water Council of Arizona, Placer County Water Agency (CA), New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, New Mexico Wool Growers, Inc., Arizona Farm Bureau Federation, La Paz County Stockmen, Arizona Liberty, Arizona Chapter of the Concerned Citizens for America, Arizona Pork Council, Irrigation and Electrical Districts Association of Arizona, Arizona Westside Irrigation and Electrical Districts, Tucson Electric Power & UniSource Energy Services, Grand Canyon State Electric Cooperative Association, Electrical District No. 3 of Pinal County, Electrical District No. 4 of Pinal County, Central Arizona Irrigation and Drainage District, Maricopa-Stanfield Irrigation & Drainage District, and New Magma Irrigation and Drainage District.Read More
Today, the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a legislative hearing on a discussion draft of the “Helium Extraction Act of 2017.” The bill authorizes the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to lease federal land for the purpose of helium production under the same lease terms as oil and gas.
“[M]ajor concerns remain regarding the future of the domestic helium market,” Subcommittee Chairman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said. “[W]e need to ensure our country will have access to such a necessary resource. Without a domestic source of helium, American industries will be forced to rely on foreign sourced helium.
Helium, which is a byproduct of the natural gas extraction process, is an essential element used in medical, defense and energy related services such as MRIs, air-to-air missile guidance systems and semiconductors. The United States is currently the world’s largest supplier of helium ahead of Qatar, Algeria and Russia.
Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia and its regional allies broke off economic and diplomatic relations, including transport ties, with Qatar. As a result of the ongoing conflict, Qatar, the world’s second largest helium producer, has closed multiple helium production plants.
Walter Nelson, Vice President and General Manager of Global Helium at Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., argued increasing domestic production and supply would eliminate future dependence on potentially unstable foreign sources of supply.
“With the Qatar helium source unavailable, demand has shifted to other global sources – most prominently the BLM system in the United States,” Nelson stated. “This supply disruption will impact everyone.”
In addition to strengthening national security, Jason Demers, President and CEO of Tacitus Ventures Corporation, said domestic helium exploration and production will benefit communities around the country.
“[It will] generate new federal revenues without creating additional costs associated with regulatory oversight. [And] lead to job creation and increased economic activity in remote regions of the country,” Demers said.
Acting Assistant Director of the Bureau of Land Management Energy, Mineral, and Realty Management Tim Spisak expressed support for the discussion draft, stating: “it supports the Administration’s priority to make America safe through energy independence.”
“The BLM supports the draft bill in its current form. By providing additional avenues to bringing Federal land into helium production, the draft Helium Extraction Act supports the prudent development of this resource,” Spisak said.
Click here to view full witness testimony.Read More
The Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs held a legislative hearing today on H.R. 2662, the “Restoring Accountability in the Indian Health Service Act of 2017. Introduced by Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD), the bill addresses longstanding problems with the way the Indian Health Service (IHS) administers healthcare to tribes.
“Adequate healthcare is one of the most important issues to American Indian and Alaska Natives. However, the IHS direct care system is deficient, inadequate, and is simply failing areas that need help the most,” Subcommittee Chairman Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) said.
In particular, the Great Plains Area has long fallen victim to low-quality care, nepotism and corruption in their IHS facilities. Seven years after the publication of the well-known “Dorgan Report,” a congressional investigation detailing conditions, abuses and failures within the IHS, little has changed.
“Last year, [I sat] before this Subcommittee testifying on this same issue. I told you that the state of Indian healthcare in South Dakota had fallen to emergency levels. Today I can report to you that some progress has been made, but it’s not enough and it’s not happening fast enough,” Rep. Noem said.
Yearly increases in IHS funding has failed to significantly improve the situation. H.R. 2662 prioritizes accountability and transparency in the IHS, allows negligent or corrupt officials to be punished or terminated, and facilitates the hiring of more capable managerial talent.
“This legislation provides thoughtful and workable measures for the success and betterment of employee recruitment, employee hiring, and employee retention in the IHS workforce,” Legislative Representative for District V of the Ho-Chunk Nation Robert Two Bears stated. “The bill also takes affirmative steps to restore accountability in the standards and timeliness of care that the HIS provides to Indian people across the country.”
Deputy Director of the IHS Chris Buchanan says the Department of Health and Human Services remains “firmly committed to improving the quality, safety and access to healthcare for American Indians and Alaska Natives” and that they “look forward to working with the Subcommittee on this legislation as it moves through the legislative process.”
Click here to view full witness testimony.Read More
Yesterday, Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL) introduced H.R. 2937, the “Community Reclamation Partnerships Act.” This bill authorizes partnerships between states and non-governmental entities for the purposes of expanding abandoned mine reclamation projects.
“I commend Rep. LaHood for his leadership to build bipartisan consensus on legislation that will help solve a pressing national challenge. With thousands of abandoned mine lands across the country, ‘Community Reclaimers’ can aid in the cleanup up of these sites on a much broader scale and a faster pace. I look forward with our colleagues across the aisle as we move this bill through Committee and on to the House floor,” Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) said.
“While mining is an important part of Illinois’ economy, abandoned mines continue to present safety dangers and missed opportunities for new development. That is why I have introduced this bill, which would protect third-party groups from frivolous lawsuits when they attempt to clean up or re-purpose these abandoned mines. No group should be punished for wanting to help out their local community in this way,” LaHood said. “I look forward to seeing this bill move forward with bipartisan support.”
H.R. 2937 addresses impediments potential “Community Reclaimers” face in the reclamation process by allowing states to assume liability on their behalf, shielding them from any undue legal liability under the law. The legislation incentivizes non-governmental organizations to contribute their resources towards much-needed reclamation projects.
The bill is scheduled for a Full Committee markup beginning on Thursday, June 22.Read More
House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) today announced the departure of Committee Staff Director Jason Knox and the appointment of Cody Stewart as his replacement:
“Jason has been invaluable to our members and staff and instrumental to the Committee’s success. He will be sorely missed by all of us and I thank him for his dedication and service over the years. We wish him the very best as he pursues new opportunities in the private sector.
“Cody is a trusted advisor who brings to the Committee nearly two decades of experience in government and natural resource policy. Cody provides a seamless transition and is uniquely qualified to lead our staff and advance the Committee’s agenda.”
Prior to serving as Committee Staff Director under Bishop since 2015, Jason previously worked on the Committee from 2006 to 2011. His prior work on Capitol Hill also includes service on the Senate Budget Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Cody, who will join the Committee in August, most recently served as the Director of Federal Affairs for Utah Governor Gary Herbert. His previous work on Capitol Hill includes serving as a Senior Legislative Assistant on Energy and Public Lands Policy to Rep. Chris Cannon (UT-03), Legislative Director to Rep. Rob Bishop (UT-01) and Executive Director of the Congressional Western Caucus. He also worked on the Committee under former Chairman Jim Hansen (UT-01).
Cody has also served in several other senior state government positions, including Chief-of-Staff to Utah’s Lt. Governor Greg Bell, and as the Energy Advisor and Policy Director to Governor Herbert.
Born and raised in Utah, Cody currently lives with his wife, Mary, and their six children in Chantilly, Virginia.Read More
Washington, D.C. – Today, the Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a legislative hearing on the “Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017” (Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-AR), discussion draft legislation to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and dramatically improve the health of federal forests and rangelands.
“The fact is, we’ve loved our trees to death. Literally. Our federal forests are suffering due to overgrowth, disease, insect infestation and wildfire,” Rep Westerman (R-AR) said. “My bill aims to fix those issues by giving the Forest Service the tools it needs to pro-actively use proven scientific, silviculture techniques to better manage our federal forest lands as well as reduce red tape.”
Active forest management practices, such as thinning through timber harvests, can greatly reduce the risk and severity of wildfires. Due to frivolous lawsuits, the threat of lawsuits and agency stagnation, timelines for environmental analyses have increased from several months to several years for these projects, increasing costs and significantly curtailing the pace and scale of forest restoration initiatives.
“[M]anagement of public lands is our responsibility,” Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA) stated. “We can no longer manage lands to prevent fire or even salvage dead timber once fire has destroyed it… That is on us. And that is about to change.”
Granger MacDonald, Chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, attributes today’s high cost of purchasing a new home to the significant decrease in timber production. Due to extensive and costly environmental planning requirements, timber harvested from our national forests has dropped dramatically since the 1980’s.
“Even modest price increases in the cost of lumber can deny many American families an opportunity to achieve homeownership,” Macdonald stated. “Congress and the Administration can take positive steps to reduce the cost of housing by increasing the supply of domestically produced lumber from federal lands. Reducing the price of the average single-family home would help unlock pent-up housing demand and add fuel to the economy.”
The discussion draft streamlines wildfire and disease prevention projects and assures that fire-killed timber can be quickly removed to pay for reforestation and restoration of fire-damaged lands. The legislation also streamlines onerous environmental review processes without sacrificing environmental protection.
Jim Neiman, CEO of Neiman Enterprises, testified that “litigation is a serious problem for the Forest Service,” and that the efforts of the USFS to “bullet-proof” environmental analysis documents simply “delays the eventual litigation, while dead and dying timber deteriorates.”
The discussion draft minimizes the threat of these lawsuits by providing alternatives to resolve legal challenges against forest management activities, in lieu of litigation.
The discussion draft also undertakes a long-awaited solution to fire borrowing, a budgetary challenge whereby the Forest Service must transfer critical resources from other priorities to pay for increasingly costly wildfires.
“Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike like healthy forests... There is no downside to a healthy forest. It’s a win-win-win,” Westerman said. “If there’s anything we can agree on, it’s to take care of this treasured resource that we have.”
Click here to view full witness testimony.Read More
Today, Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement in reaction to Interior Secretary Zinke's announcement related to the Trump Administration's ongoing review of national monument designations under the Antiquities Act:
“This is positive news for the State of Utah and local communities affected by the Bears Ears monument designation. Anyone with honest intentions recognizes that local input should matter when the federal executive makes a decision of this magnitude. I commend Secretary Zinke for actually listening to local voices on the issue and conducting a thoughtful and deliberative review to help inform the President’s ultimate decision.”Read More