Committee on Natural Resources

Rob Bishop

Action Agency Missing in Action

2015/07/29

Today, the Committee on Natural Resources held a hearing on “Federal Agencies’ Selective Enforcement of ESA Consultation.” The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) refused to testify, despite the fact that, as the action agency implementing the Obama Administration’s new and existing coal-fired power plant rules, it is responsible for determining whether its proposed rules “may affect” a listed species or its critical habitat, pursuant to Section 7 (Interagency Consultation) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 

As Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Dan Ashe recently stated in a letter to Chairman Bishop: “EPA, as the expert agency on the Clean Air Act, is best positioned to understand if their rules will affect listed species or designated critical habitat.” 

The Department of the Interior (DOI) and the National Ocean Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sent witnesses that testified to the EPA’s responsibility in initiating Section 7 consultation. No witness denied that the EPA’s power plant rule hit a “may affect” threshold for endangered manatees that rely on coal-fired power plants warm water discharge to survive cold snaps.

Michael Bean, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at Department of the Interior: 

“EPA’s responsibility was to evaluate…beneficial or detrimental effects that were reasonably certain to occur. That’s the same responsibility of any federal action agency has when considering this first step of the consultation process.”

"It is ultimately the responsibility of the action agency to determine whether to consult and whether to adopt the Services’ recommendations."

"Consultation begins with the determination, made by the action agency, as to whether a proposed federal action may affect a listed species or its critical habitat."

"In determining whether a proposed action may affect listed species or designated critical habitat, an action agency must consider both direct and indirect effects of the action."

"Action agencies are the appropriate entities for making such determinations at the threshold “may affect” stage."

"If a proposed action is likely to adversely affect a listed species or designated critical habitat, “formal consultation” between the action agency and the Service is required."

"We ultimately depend upon the action agencies to establish the effects of their programs, plans, or rules and determine whether their actions trigger the need for section 7 consultation."


Sam Rauch, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs at NOAA Fisheries: 

"Formal consultation is required if an action agency determines a proposed action "may adversely affect" listed species or designated critical habitat."

"Federal agencies must also consult with the Services on activities that may affect a listed species and/or its designated critical habitat."


Click here for more information on the hearing.
 
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46 Members Criticize Obama Admin. for Sidelining States on Stream Rule, Request 120 Day Public Comment Extension

2015/07/29

 Today, forty-six Members of Congress sent a letter to Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) Director Joseph Pizarchik requesting an extension of the public comment period and more time for public review of OSM documents related to the Stream Protection Rule (SPR) and the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) published on July 16, 2015.  Upon release of the letter, Committee Member Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV), chief sponsor of H.R. 1644, the “Supporting Transparent Regulatory and Environmental Actions in Mining Act (STREAM Act),” stated:

“The proposed Stream Protection Rule threatens thousands of good paying coal jobs across Appalachia,” said Rep Mooney. “I believe that a 120 day extension of the comment period is absolutely critical, especially given the lack of transparency and public input in the formulation of these regulations. Ultimately, these regulations must be stopped altogether.”

Click here to view the full letter.

“Given that the Proposed Rule and DEIS are the subject of multiple congressional oversight hearings and investigations, have had limited public input, and are voluminous in content, totaling over 2,500 combined pages while altering approximately 475 individual rules, OSM must extend the comment period to ensure adequate time for a review of the documents,” the letter states. “OSM has had over 2,000 days to draft this complex and overwhelming rule, yet only provided stakeholders a 60-day comment period.”

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Chairman Rob Bishop Opening Statement at the Full Committee Oversight Hearing

2015/07/29

Chairman Rob Bishop (UT-01) of the House Committee on Natural Resources made the following opening statement at today's oversight hearing entitled "Federal Agencies' Selective Enforcement of ESA Consultation."

Remarks as prepared - Every day, Americans are required to comply with an ever growing list of federal regulations which restrict their freedoms and hinder their efforts to create jobs and grow our economy.  From nearly every agency, the Obama Administration’s regulatory onslaught continues at a fever pitch, killing jobs and condemning our nation’s economy to the anemic growth we are currently experiencing.  

No agency has done more to add to the expanding federal regulatory burden than the EPA.  Imagine our surprise when it appeared that the EPA was shirking its duties under the Endangered Species Act at the same time it seeks to finalize  two of the most expensive and far-reaching regulations in the last 50 years.  Today, we hope to discover that the EPA and the Fish and Wildlife Service are not selectively enforcing a critical component of the ESA to speed up the very rules that threaten to slam the brakes on the American economy.   

While well-intentioned, the ESA has caused more than its fair share of headaches for Americans, moving far afield of the original intent of 40 years ago. .  Instead of a law focused on saving species in danger of extinction, it has become a political tool for radical environmentalists to exact retribution on those seeking to make use of our natural resources.  

Instead of an open, transparent, and science-based regulatory scheme that would make partners of states, we have been left with an opaque, litigation-driven system that resolves controversial policy questions through closed-door settlement agreements.  Recent proposals by this Administration serve only to highlight that the status quo is unacceptable and that improvements in transparency, science, and state-federal collaboration are long overdue.  

But while there is growing consensus that ESA improvements can and should be made, it is hypocritical for agencies like the EPA to expect everyday Americans to follow its regulations while they are able to evade them.  They even are trying to evade answering our questions.  Amidst EPA’s confusing statements about their expertise on ESA, they communicated to the Committee last week that they didn’t have a witness that could speak on this topic on the agency’s behalf.

In March 2014, then Chairman Vitter of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, wrote  to Administrator McCarthy and Director Ashe asking, among other things, if EPA was required by law to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service with regard to EPA’s rule on new source performance standards.  In response to this and 16 other detailed questions, Director Ashe responded, and I quote: “To date, the EPA has not asked the [Fish and Wildlife Service] to engage in section 7 consultation on the proposed [new source performance standard] rule.”  As of today, more than sixteen months later, the EPA has still not responded to the letter. 

Then, during a hearing before this Committee in March of this year, I asked Director Ashe if EPA had consulted on its rule for existing power plants.  Director Ashe responded that EPA had not requested consultation on the rule.  Ultimately, in a letter following that hearing, Ashe stated that the determination of whether EPA’s action may affect endangered species, and therefore require ESA consultation, could only be completed by the EPA, given their expertise with Clean Air Act issues. 
While some trying to follow the law can wait years to complete a consultation, federal agencies are ignoring the basic question of whether sweeping EPA regulations “may affect” listed species or critical habitat.
 
Courts and agencies have repeatedly emphasized that this is an intentionally low threshold.  Courts have stated that “[a]ny possible effect, whether beneficial, benign, adverse or of an undetermined character” triggers the requirement, and one court even went as far as to say that the mere presence of a listed species was enough to require consultation.  

It should not be this difficult to get straight answers as to whether these two massive rules “may affect” listed species.  But, we will hold the federal agencies accountable until we do.  

I should note at this time that we received unsigned and unsolicited written remarks from EPA late last night on this issue as well as the belated first few documents supplied in response to the letter sent by Chairman Inhofe and myself. If EPA believes a few pages of unrequested testimony is a fair substitute for coming before this Committee and answering questions in front of the American people, then it sorely misses the point of this institution.  I will continue to press forward with our questions until EPA has answered them to my satisfaction.   

I thank the witnesses for attending this hearing and I look forward to learning more about this process. 

Additional hearing details here. Read More

Coastal Zone Management Act Reexamined in Light of Newfound Energy Prosperity

2015/07/28

The Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing on "Federal Implementation of the Coastal Zone Management Act" (CZMA).  This is the first hearing on CZMA that the Committee has held in 16 years. In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) discussed the CZMA’s impact on the changing global energy landscape in the time period since the Act’s passage.


“[T]he powers provided in this Act have allowed states and localities to make consistency determinations to shut down federally-permitted projects that have national significance.  In the context of the greater LNG and crude export debate, the net effect of such decisions at the local level could have far reaching impacts to our nation – and to our trading partners.  

“At the time of [CZMA’s] passage, our nation had yet to face the tumultuous period of an energy crisis – occurring a year later when OPEC proclaimed an oil embargo.  Today – with thanks to production on state and private lands – our nation is on the path to a more energy-secure future as the global leader of oil and gas production.  Some things have stayed the same - we still face OPEC’s attempts to destabilize our energy markets by keeping supply above demand in an attempt to slow nation’s our upstream production.  This is why domestic energy production and export of those products is critically important. Today we look at the Coastal Zone Management Act through a new lens, the lens of energy prosperity.”


Members and witnesses gave examples of how radical legislatures in states like New York have hijacked the CZMA to block energy projects and called for consistency in application across the states.

Click here for more information on the hearing.
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Congressional Committees Announce Joint Oversight Hearing on Restricted Access at Biscayne National Park

2015/07/22

On Monday, August 3, 2015, at 10:00 a.m. (EDT) the House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Small Business Committee will hold a joint full committee field hearing titled “Restricted Access at Biscayne National Park and Implications for Fishermen, Small Businesses, the Local Economy and Environment.”

Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) released the following statement: 

“I am concerned that the National Park Service has exercised its federal will over the concerns of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and others when it comes to recreational access in Biscayne National Park. Local fishermen who enjoy the park should not be excluded from full access, particularly when the local community has been denied appropriate inclusion in such a significant resource management decision.  My Florida colleagues have rightly asked for a congressional field hearing on this troubling matter. I look forward to hearing from Floridians on the impact on the local economy, which is driven in large part by fishing and recreation in Biscayne Bay.”

Committee on Small Business Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) released the following statement: 

“I applaud my colleagues, Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Chairman Rob Bishop, for their leadership on this issue, which is critical to hardworking Florida families that rely on local resources to put a roof over their head and food on their table. When Washington assumes it knows better than state authorities and local leaders, the end result is typically a misguided plan that does more harm than good. That’s exactly what we have here.  I look forward to learning more from local stakeholders about the impact the Biscayne National Park General Management Plan will have on small businesses in the community.” 

WHAT: “Restricted Access at Biscayne National Park and Implications for Fishermen, Small Businesses, the               Local Economy and Environment” 

WHEN: Monday, August 3    
             10:00 AM  

WHERE: William F. Dickinson Community Center, 1601 N. Krome Avenue, in Homestead, Florida

BACKGROUND: 

In June, the National Park Service (NPS) issued its final General Management Plan (GMP) for Biscayne National Park.  The GMP conflicts with the position of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the recommendations of the park's own stakeholder working groups, and thousands of public comments opposed to the implementation of marine reserves in the park. The FWC, in public comments on the GMP, stated: “This disregard for both the scientific process and the value of public access is a major reason why the FWC cannot support the marine reserve zone.”

Numerous local stakeholders are worried about the Biscayne National Park GMP. Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), expressed concern that the final GMP will “close a large portion of the park's waters to all fishing activities” and “bring an end to all commercial fishing activities within park boundaries in at least ten years.” 

The National Park Service’s disregard for state and public input as well as the economic and environmental ramifications of the plan is of great concern to both Chairmen and will be explored at the hearing. 

Visit the Committee Calendar for additional information, once it is made available. The meeting is open to the public and a live video stream will be broadcast at House Committee on Natural Resources. Read More

Controversial Social Cost of Carbon, Developed Behind Closed Doors, Jeopardizes Energy Production & American Way of Life

2015/07/22

Today, the House Committee on Natural Resources held a hearing on the process and development of the Obama Administration’s Social Cost of Carbon (SCC), a controversial statistical model that is being incorporated into all environmental reviews subject to approval under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  The hearing is the second in a series of oversight hearings on NEPA and the Obama Administration’s unilateral expansion of regulations across the American economy.

Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) commented:

“The Obama Administration has given itself – and future administrations – a mammoth blank check to stop any project based on a radical fantasy. The Social Cost of Carbon is exactly that – a social restructuring of the way Americans live their lives. This unprecedented authority, disguised as an innocuous guideline for regulatory analysis, is a dangerous ideological weapon for the Administration. The numbers can be so easily manipulated that it simply allows any Administration to pick winners and losers, but the American people and the American way of life will be the ultimate losers.”

At the hearing, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) testified to the benefits of fossil fuels. 

“Fossil Fuels have dramatically improved the lives of human beings… In fact because of fossil fuels we are now seeing china and India use more fossil fuels and we are seeing the standard of living go up, we are seeing personal percentage GDP go up, we are seeing life expectancy in china and India go up,” Rep. Duncan said. “I had a premature son, he was able to go into an incubator, and he was kept alive based on that. There are parts of the world that don’t have access to ready, reliable, affordable, fossil fuels to generate electricity. Because of that failure to have electricity they can’t have incubators or generators to do C-sections, children die.” 

Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) stated:

“As we think about the Social Cost of Carbon, we know that man-made carbon pollution can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution, and as carbon emissions increased, real wages increased (meaning that they rose faster than inflation), agricultural production increased (meaning food supply and quality increased), populations increased, life expectancy increased and quality of life improved, technology and health care improved. At the same time, poverty rates decreased, mortality rates decreased, and social barriers were removed."

Click here to view additional information from the hearing.  Read More

Bishop: Report Reveals Obama’s Energy Legacy of Failure

2015/07/17

Today the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released a report on fossil fuels produced from federal and Indian lands for FY 2014.  Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement: 

“The government’s report on energy production on federal lands is astonishingly dismal. The EIA found miniscule growth in oil and natural gas production on federal land – less than a percentage point –the same week that the President welcomes Iranian oil to the market with open arms. Producers operating on private and state lands are powering our energy economy, but we deserve better from the federal government. The Obama Administration should be expanding access to federal lands and offshore waters and opening up American oil markets – not only for the sake of our economy but for the sake of national security. Instead, the President demands new costly requirements on producers, denies offshore exploration, and declaims these fuels as harmful to our future. Now in his last term, it’s safe to say that stagnant production on federal lands is a pillar in President Obama’s energy legacy of failure.”

From the report

2014 Fossil Fuels production on Federal lands (+ 0.2%)

To learn about soaring state and private land production, please read the Congressional Research Service report released in April.  Read More

Bishop: States Marginalized as Obama Admin. Drops Conflict-ridden Stream Rule

2015/07/16

Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement in response to the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s (“OSM”) proposed Stream Protection Rule (SPR) released today by the U.S. Department of the Interior.  

“The Obama Administration has proven to be the bully regulation machine once again. Despite NEPA requirements that affected states be involved as cooperating agencies, the Administration has shamelessly sidelined the states in their secret development of the rule. Nine out of ten states have rejected the dog and pony show of inclusion OSM has put forward. I am afraid that their concerns with the impacts of the rule on Americans will be cast aside. Clearly, the Obama Administration will stop at nothing to stomp out American livelihoods dependent on coal.” 

Click below to view states that have withdrawn as cooperating agencies.

Click here to view the letter Chairman Bishop sent yesterday to the Government Accountability Office requesting information on the SPR’s development. Read More

House Passes Bipartisan Legislation to Deliver Relief to People Suffering From Western Drought

2015/07/16

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015 with bipartisan support by a vote of 245-176.  Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement upon final passage.  
 
“In the midst of the drought crisis in California and the West, H.R. 2898 will liberate Americans from the prison of outdated water laws and radical environmental regulations that have exacerbated the drought and choked the economy. This imperative legislation will restore water to communities across California and the West and stabilize food prices for Americans across the country. Most importantly, it restores people as our unmistakable, rightful first priority in the nation’s water policies,” Chairman Bishop stated. “I commend Rep. David Valadao for his leadership on H.R. 2898, and thank my California colleagues and members of the Committee, for their work on a strong bill that will alleviate manmade drought effects and return prosperity to the West.”
 
The Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015 passed the Committee on Natural Resources on June 9, 2015. 
 
Click here to view additional information on H.R. 2898.  Read More

Bishop vs. BLM on Federal Hydraulic Fracturing Rule Implementation

2015/07/15

Today, during a hearing before the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) confronted Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Neil Kornze on the Bureau’s utter lack of preparedness in anticipation of the impending hydraulic fracturing rule on federal lands, which BLM was scheduled to begin implementing on June 23, 2015.  The rule has been delayed because the District Court of Wyoming issued a stay due to the “credible threat of irreparable harm: [in] cost of compliance, as well as the loss of revenue,” for states, tribes, and industry. 

Watch the exchange below.



Bishop: In your prepared statement, you quoted that the BLM’s overall intent for coordinated efforts with the state is to minimize duplication and maximize efficiency and you also say that implementation of the rules has been temporarily paused as a result of litigation. 

Let’s assume we can go back in time, it’s June 23rd before the judge has put on that stay for the rule. I know Colorado was still waiting for their variances and as I understand no other state had variances in place on June 23rd did they?


Kornze: No.

Bishop: I understand from other testimony like North Dakota also said they needed fourteen new hires to be able to successfully implement the law. They were not actually implemented or hired were they?

Kornze: Well, we have a flexible system and we move where we need to, like when we have to push additional bodies to high volume offices. 

Bishop: The bottom line is still they weren’t there. And instructional memoranda sent to state offices advising them of implementation rules, that did not exist on the 23rd either did it?

Kornze: That’s correct.

Bishop: So at the time just before its implementation there were no variances that were out there, the number of people were inadequate, there was no clear guidance to the districts, like my state which I think had been doing an excellent job at ensuring protection of the environment with hydraulic fracturing.


 Game, set, match. 
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Contact Information

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


Membership

Dan Benishek

MICHIGAN's 1st DISTRICT

Rob Bishop

UTAH's 1st DISTRICT

Bradley Byrne

ALABAMA's 1st DISTRICT

Paul Cook

CALIFORNIA's 8th DISTRICT

Jeff Denham

CALIFORNIA's 10th DISTRICT

Jeff Duncan

SOUTH CAROLINA's 3rd DISTRICT

John Fleming

LOUISIANA's 4th DISTRICT

Louie Gohmert

TEXAS' 1st DISTRICT

Paul Gosar

ARIZONA's 4th DISTRICT

Garret Graves

LOUISIANA's 6th DISTRICT

Crescent Hardy

NEVADA's 4th DISTRICT

Jody Hice

GEORGIA's 10th DISTRICT

Raul Labrador

IDAHO's 1st DISTRICT

Doug LaMalfa

CALIFORNIA's 1st DISTRICT

Doug Lamborn

COLORADO's 5th DISTRICT

Cynthia Lummis

WYOMING

Tom MacArthur

NEW JERSEY's 3rd DISTRICT

Tom McClintock

CALIFORNIA's 4th DISTRICT

Alex Mooney

WEST VIRGINIA's 2nd DISTRICT

Dan Newhouse

WASHINGTON's 4th DISTRICT

Amata Radewagen

AMERICAN SAMOA

Glenn Thompson

PENNSYLVANIA's 5th DISTRICT

Bruce Westerman

ARKANSAS' 4th DISTRICT

Rob Wittman

VIRGINIA's 1st DISTRICT

Donald Young

ALASKA

Ryan Zinke

MONTANA

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