Today, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed a land-swap agreement to facilitate a life-saving road for the isolated community of King Cove, Alaska.
“Today is a great day for Alaska, and an especially important day for the residents of King Cove. Secretary Zinke has done what the previous administration refused; he prioritized the lives and well-being of Alaska Natives over those of a goose,” Rep. Don Young (R-AK) stated. “Sally Jewell said someone had to speak for the birds. Well Secretary Zinke has finally spoken for the people. The city of King Cove was incorporated 33 years before there was a Refuge, and the residents of that town only asked for one thing -- a road to reach the airport. I want to thank not only the Administration, but my colleagues who stood up with me on July 20th when we voted in the House to build the King Cove road. I have been working on this for 30 years, and I am proud to stand with Secretary Zinke today in finally giving King Cove their road.”
“Alaska has fought for too long to build a road to safety for the people of King Cove. Finally, we have an administration willing to place people ahead of dogma and special interests and do the right thing. By signing this land swap, Secretary Zinke is saving lives,” Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) said.
In July 2017, the House passed H.R. 218, the bipartisan “King Cove Road Land Exchange Act.” Introduced by Rep. Young, the bill authorizes a land exchange between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Alaska to construct an 11-mile, one lane, non-commercial road connecting the remote community of King Cove to a modern, all-weather airport with access to emergency medical services in Cold Bay, Alaska.
Under the agreement announced by Secretary Zinke, the State of Alaska will transfer State land to be added to the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, in exchange for the minimum acreage necessary to construct the life-saving road that the people of King Cove have sought for decades.
Today, the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing to examine regulatory obstacles to seismic research in America’s outer continental shelf (OCS).
Acoustic seismic surveying is used to collect valuable information regarding offshore geological structures, and is used by a myriad of stakeholders, including the federal government, energy production companies, and research scientists to make informed management decisions concerning federal offshore resources.
Walter Cruickshank, Acting Director of the Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM), described the geological and geophysical data retrieved from seismic surveying as “critically important” and used for a variety of reasons beyond oil and gas development, including renewable energy projects, coastal restoration projects and to better plan for natural disasters.
Unfortunately, a cumbersome permitting process for geological and geophysical (G&G) surveying that involves multiple federal agencies has crippled expanded research endeavors.
Ryan Steen, Representative of the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, and an attorney with extensive experience in environmental regulation and litigation, argued that the arcane permitting process is the “primary cause of administrative delay” and the “ambiguous, outdated and unclear language” required from federal agencies involved in permitting decisions.
A December 2017 Government Accountability Office report corroborated these complaints, and highlighted the failures, seemingly intentional delays, and political decisions that influence the current permitting process.
In January 2017, in the twilight of the Obama administration, six seismic applications were unilaterally denied. As documented in GAO's report, this was the first time BOEM had ever denied a G&G permit.
“Under the Obama administration, there were six G&G permits that were essentially yanked from the applicants for purely political reasons.” Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Chairman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) stated. “Failure to properly process these permits, and failure to develop a proper path forward for future permits, keeps our country in the dark about our offshore resources, hindering our nation’s ability to make informed, long term leasing decisions.”
The denial of the six permits was an “abrupt political decision, on the eve of a new Presidency, to summarily deny all permit applications. BOEM has since correctly reinstated the permit applications, which remain under agency review,” Steen added.
In May 2017, under the Trump administration, BOEM announced it would reconsider the 6 permit applications rescinded under the prior administration. These applications have now been under review for more than a thousand days.
In November 2017, the Committee passed H.R. 4239, the “SECURE American Energy Act,” a broad package of upstream energy reforms, including provisions that ensure regulatory certainty and clarity in the offshore seismic permitting process.
Click here to view full witness testimony.
Today, the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing to examine Department of the Interior (DOI) actions to eliminate regulatory burdens for onshore oil and gas development on federal lands.
In March 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13783, Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth. In compliance with the EO, DOI has taken aggressive steps to address identified barriers to responsible energy development.
“Under Secretary Zinke’s leadership we are reviewing, revising and creating new oil and gas program policies, procedures and guidelines to help secure American energy dominance, create jobs and build a strong economy,” Deputy Director of Policy and Programs at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Brian Steed stated.
In October 2017, the DOI released the report highlighting the Department’s progress, including the re-writing of onerous regulations and various other administrative steps to streamline bloated lease and permitting processes.
“While the Department has been proactive in addressing regulatory burdens that discourage energy productions, much work remains in getting bureaucracy out of the way of responsible and timely development of our domestic resources,” Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Chairman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) stated.
Jared Kubat, Vice President of Land, Legal & Regulatory at Wold Energy Partners, LLC (WEP), a four-year-old entrepreneurial endeavor, described the federal leasing process for onshore development as convoluted and “riddled with uncertainty,” citing the average delay WEP faces between parcel nomination and lease offering to be 415 days.
“These delays negatively and disproportionately impact small business, the backbone of the economy, and the citizens of the states where these resources are located,” Kubat added.
Shane Schulz, Director of Government Affairs of QEP Resources, stressed that while there has been a “remarkable” increase in domestic oil and gas production on state and private lands, “we did not see equivalent growth on federal lands.”
“Development was underway, but it did not keep pace with development on private lands, where regulatory management is handled by the states,” Schulz emphasized.
Today, the BLM, the federal agency responsible for managing the 700 million acre federal onshore mineral estate, takes an average of 257 days to issue a permit to develop on federal lands, where it takes states just 30 days on average.
Schulz recommend the Committee and Trump adminstration continue to “evaluate methods to delegate more authority to states where it makes sense” and “continue to reform existing programs that are duplicative of adequate state programs.”
“I would encourage you to find solutions to allow increases in leasing, and better planning for development of lands, and true multiple-use of the land,” Utah State Senator Kevin Van Tassell stated.
In November 2017, the Committee passed H.R. 4239, the “SECURE American Energy Act,” a broad package of upstream energy reforms, including provisions enabling states with established regulatory programs to manage certain federal permitting and regulatory responsibilities.
Click here to view full witness testimony.
Today, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced the “Opportunities for the Nation and States to Harness Onshore Resources for Energy Act” or “ONSHORE Act.” The bill mirrors Title II of H.R. 4239, the “SECURE American Energy Act,” which passed the Committee in November 2017. Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement:
“I applaud Senator Barrasso for introducing companion legislation to spur greater development of the vast energy resources of America’s federal estate. This bill will not only strengthen the nation’s energy security, it will increase revenues to states, support critical infrastructure projects and fund essential public services. I look forward to working with the Senate to get this bicameral legislation signed into law.”
Click here for more information on the SECURE Act.
Click here for more information on the ONSHORE Act.Read More
House Natural Resources Committee ranking member Raul Grijalva is calling into question rank-and-file Democratic commitment to combatting one of the most controversial Trump administration regulatory rollbacks: the dramatic downsizing of the Bears Ears National Monument. And he’s not alone. One of his top lieutenants, Rep. Alan Lowenthal, also aired frustration following dismal Democratic turnout at a hearing on Republican Bears Ears legislation.
"Democratic committee members left Grijalva, Lowenthal, and Rep. Ruben Gallego alone to speak..."
"'I was shocked that there were not more Democrats there,' Lowenthal said."
"Gallego, who is sponsoring legislation to significantly expand the Bears Ears monument beyond President Obama’s proclamation, left last week’s hearing without questioning witnesses."
"Democrats are, however, using an arcane legislative rule to force another hearing on the Bears Ears legislation, which is now scheduled for Jan. 30."
"On the day of the Bears Ears hearing, Hanabusa, who holds the top Democratic spot on the Federal Lands Subcommittee, was on the campaign trail in her bid for governor of Hawaii."
"'I’ve noticed that really for the last six years now … the Democrats tend not to attend the Natural Resources Committee hearings and the Republicans do,' said Federal Lands Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock"
Today, the House Committee on Natural Resources passed H.R. 3133, the “Streamlining Environmental Approvals (SEA) Act of 2017.” Introduced by Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), the bill amends the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to remove duplicative permitting requirements that inhibit economic development and restoration projects.
“Washington bureaucrats should never have the authority to halt coastal initiatives based on their own politically biased agendas. Yet many permit approvals are prolonged, including coastal restoration efforts and critical naval operations, specifically for that reason. The SEA Act takes important steps to implement strict deadlines for agencies while maintaining appropriate permitting standards, allowing projects to move forward only if they meet the highest requirements. I applaud the Natural Resources Committee for recognizing the importance of this commonsense legislation and my colleagues for moving it forward,” Rep. Johnson stated.
“Dogma and outdated federal mandates are stalling beneficial conservation and economic development activities,” Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) said. “This bill establishes accountability within the bureaucracy and reconciles conflicting federal requirements to make the law work better for people and the environment. I thank Rep. Johnson for his work on this important bill and look forward to advancing it through the House.”
Click here to learn more about the bill.
Provisions of H.R. 3133 are included in H.R. 4239, the “SECURE American Energy Act,” which passed the Committee in November 2017.Read More
Today, 158 House Democrats voted against S. 140 (Sen. Jeff Flake, R-AZ), a bill that promotes tribal self-governance over tribal resources, lands and business regulation.
Despite claims to overwhelmingly support tribal rights, all 5 Subcommittee Ranking Members voted against the measure.
“This legislation promotes the ability of tribes to manage their own land, water, and labor resources how they see fit, and to do so in a manner that benefits their communities. Many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle claim that they, too, support tribal self-governance, but their efforts today to derail this important legislation paint a starkly different picture. As Subcommittee Chairman, I’m happy to see the House make these positive changes,” Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs Chairman Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) stated.
Click here to learn more about the bill.
“While it is difficult to overstate how politicized the creation and management of our national monuments has become, I believe all sides of this debate share many common goals,” Rep. Curtis stated. “These goals include a high priority on protecting and preserving both antiquities and the natural beauty of this area, as well as maintaining traditional uses of the land.”
In in the waning days of office, President Obama unilaterally designated the BENM against the will of Utah’s elected leaders, local stakeholders and tribes.
Despite empty promises to the contrary, the original BENM proclamation did not bestow tribal co-management. Instead, the proclamation created a token advisory role for tribes and no legal or official decision making authority.
“There is no one who cares for the land more than we do, the local residents and native people of San Juan County. It is the people who live closest to the land that understand the land best and should have a voice in how lands are managed,” Member of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Suzette Morris stressed.
Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), described the Bears Ears Commission, the tribal advisory board established under the original BENM proclamation, as a scam.
“The Commission is a fraud, it’s a sham. They get to advise, but the advice can easily be rejected. Land managers have the ability to arbitrarily change things and there is nothing tribes can do about it,” Chairman Bishop argued.
Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) questioned Ms. Morris on whether local tribes were consulted by the Obama administration prior to the BENM designation and whether tribal co-management was ever achieved. “No,” Morris answered.
President Trump signed an Executive Order in April 2017, requiring a review of recent monument designations to determine whether they were consistent with the “original objectives” of the Antiquities Act. The review asserted, among other conclusions, that BENM’s size was not the "smallest area compatible" with care of the objects requiring protection, as required under the Act, and that tribes did not have an "adequate role" in managing the monument.
On December 4, 2017, President Trump signed a proclamation to protect identified antiquities in the region with the creation of two new separate, more targeted monuments: the Shash Jáa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument. To codify those actions and prevent future administrations from arbitrarily modifying the monument boundaries, congressional action is required.
“We now find ourselves with a reset and the opportunity to move forward with a legislative process for protecting this area,” Governor of Utah Gary Herbert stressed. “If we really care about protecting the antiquities and archeological artifacts… if we really care about giving native Americans co-management responsibility, it has to be done legislatively.”
"Without congressional action, Bears Ears, Shash Jaa and Indian Creed will be relegated to nothing more than political footballs being punted back and forth with each presidential adminstration. Nobody wins in that scenario – not the archeological resources, not the environment and certainly not the people of San Juan County,” Director of the Coalition for Self-Government in the West of the Sutherland Institute Matt Anderson stated.
H.R. 4532 codifies the newly-created monuments and establishes the Shash Jaa Tribal Management Council, made up of a minimum of four local tribal members, guaranteeing tribal input in management decisions.
“H.R. 4532 will finally empower the voices who have been silenced in the debate, and those are the tribes of the local tribes who actually live in San Juan County,” Morris said.
The bill maintains the existing 1.35 million acre mineral withdrawal under the original BENM designation to “put to rest any suspicion that the monument was reduced in order to advance energy development,” Governor Herbert stated.
The bill also establishes the first-of-its-kind Archaeological Resources Protection Unit, a statutory assignment of additional law enforcement personnel, and additional federal dollars, for the exclusive protection of antiquities within monument boundaries.
Click here to view full witness testimony.
January, 8 2018
As the Trump administration moves to scale back national monuments designated by past presidents under the Antiquities Act, House Republicans are looking for ways to make that mission easier by overhauling the 111-year old statute.
House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop, a critic of the broad powers the law grants presidents, is pushing legislation to reduce that authority, codify changes the Trump administration wants to make and give Native American tribes and local leaders a bigger voice in the process.
Where It Stands
Bishop, a Utah Republican and a vehement opponent of the Bears Ears National Monument established in his state by former President Barack Obama in 2016, in October introduced a bill that would overhaul the 1906 law and cut back presidential powers to designate monuments.
The measure (HR 3990) would allow the president some flexibility in establishing monuments of up to 640 acres, but prohibit designations less than 50 miles away from another. The bill would require environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act for designations between 640 acres and 10,000 acres.
The measure calls for tougher terms for larger designations, including requiring more stringent environmental reviews and approval for any designation between 10,000 and 85,000 acres from “the elected governing body of each county, the legislature of each state, and the governor of each state” within a proposed monument’s boundaries.
The bill was advanced out of committee on Oct. 11 on a party-line vote and awaits floor consideration.
President Donald Trump has already signed two declarations to remove more than 2 million acres from two Utah national monuments, including the Grand Staircase-Escalante, which was designated by former President Bill Clinton in 1996, and is expected to cut back others as recommended by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. A day after the administration announced those steps, Bishop said he would push two separate bills that would codify the Trump administration’s changes.
One House bill (HR 4532), sponsored by another Utah Republican, John Curtis, would create two different monuments in the place of Bears Ears and give local authorities and Native American tribes a bigger role in their management. The measure would also allow for broader use of the land, including hunting, grazing and motor vehicle access. Curtis told reporters on Dec. 5 that excluding grazing from Bears Ears hurts the local ranching community.
Curtis’ measure would also prohibit mineral development across the original 1.35 million acre of the Bears Ears designation, a move aimed at countering criticism that the Trump administration would open Bears Ears to industry for fossil fuel development.
“We want to change that narrative so it no longer becomes a headline, which is an inaccurate headline,” Bishop says.
Another House measure (HR 4558) introduced by yet another Utah Republican, Chris Stewart, would codify the new boundaries the Trump administration plans to establish for Grand Staircase-Escalante and create a national park within one of three new units created under Trump’s proclamation. The bill would create a “management council” made up of local officials to manage the national park, a plan Stewart says would give “local leaders a powerful voice and seat at the table.”
There are no companion bills in the Senate for any of the three measures, although a representative of Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said he is “working on relevant public lands legislation.”
Bishop meanwhile plans to move the measures quickly but says he does not expect them to come to the House floor before January. The Utah lawmakers expect the measures to undergo some changes to better fit with Trump’s proclamations on the future of the national monuments being targeted.Read More
Today, House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) released a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report highlighting the failure of federal agencies during the previous administration to provide efficient, effective and transparent permitting for seismic research in America's Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). Chairman Bishop, who requested the report in March 2016, issued the following statement:
“Seismic research is vital to unlocking energy potential off our coasts, and federal red tape is standing in the way. GAO’s report highlights the bureaucratic dysfunction, lack of transparency and blatant abuses of discretion that has stalled greater exploration and development. Congress has an obligation to take corrective action, and with the passage of the SECURE American Energy Act, we will.”
Click here to read the full report.
The Offshore Continental Shelf Lands Act states “the outer Continental Shelf is a vital national resource reserve held by the Federal Government for the public, which should be made available for expeditious and orderly development, subject to environmental safeguards, in a manner which is consistent with the maintenance of competition and other national needs.”
Unfortunately, the current federal regulatory process to permit scientific exploratory activity is riddled with bureaucratic delays, leaving little incentive for companies to move forward on the prospect of energy development in the OCS. For example, incidental harassment authorization permit applications the National Marine Fisheries Service received in mid-2014 are still in review, over one thousand days after the applications were first submitted.
In March 2016, Chairman Bishop sent a letter to the GAO with concerns about the consistency, timeliness and transparency of seismic permitting approvals, and requested detailed information on related processes.
According to GAO's report, federal agencies permitting related research "do not analyze their review time frames, a practice that is inconsistent with federal standards for internal control." Further, federal agencies will remain "unable to determine whether they are meeting their statutory review time frame of 120 days."
H.R. 4239, the bipartisan Secure American Energy Act, reduces delays in seismic research by authorizing entities to avoid duplicative regulation and related delays.