Today, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) appointed Republican lawmakers to serve on a conference committee charged with producing final energy and natural resource legislation (H.R. 8 / S. 2012), including Committee Chair Rob Bishop (R-UT), Vice-Chair Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Rep. Don Young (R-AK), Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR).
H.R. 8, the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act, which included two bipartisan energy infrastructure bills from the Committee on Natural Resources, passed the House in December 2015. The Senate passed S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act, in April 2016.
The House Amendment to S. 2012, which passed the House yesterday, includes H.R. 8 and numerous additional House-passed bills within the Committee’s jurisdiction. Click here to view a summary of most of the Committee’s provisions.
“We intend to advance a wide range of important energy and natural resource reforms through this conference process. I look forward to working with our colleagues in the Senate to build agreement on final legislation,” Bishop stated.
“This conference is a tremendous opportunity to improve the stewardship of our land, our water, and our energy resources, helping to bring conservation into the 21st Century. I anticipate a productive conference with the U.S. Senate," Lummis stated.
“I look forward to the challenge of ensuring access to critical resources and public lands, streamlining energy development, eliminating red tape facing our nation’s sportsmen and producing a bill that benefits Alaska and the American people,” Young stated.
"It’s an honor to be named as a conferee. I look forward to addressing policies which will provide some relief to our communities suffering from California's man-made drought and utilizing our vast natural resources to advance America's energy independence ,” Denham stated.
"I’m excited to work with senators and other House member to discuss the science and benefits of healthy forests, access to public lands, and improving our nation’s energy policy and infrastructure. This is a tremendous opportunity to advocate for the forests and landowners that make up so much of my district and this nation. I thank the Speaker for this opportunity." Westerman stated.
Click here to view the full text of the House Amendment to S. 2012.Read More
Today, the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing on “Exploring 21st Century Mining Safety, Environmental Control, and Technological Innovation.”
The new culture of collaboration between technological companies and the mining industry empowers every miner to be in charge of safety.
“So often we get caught looking at contemporary mining companies through the lens of past techniques. This is a dangerous practice when it frames the debates of regulatory reform,” Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) said, “any of these conversations should be informed by the current state of the industry.”
The panel stressed how modern mining is not only safe, but environmentally conscious and high tech. Despite heavy regulations placed on the industry at both a federal and state level, companies improve their environmental standards above what is expected.
Panel witness Mark Board, Vice President of Hecla Mining Company, testified that, “Mining is viewed as typically a non-technical, brute force type of industry, but actually mines are highly engineered and the new technology is changing the way these mines work.”
When Rep. Benishek (R-MI) questioned the witnesses about the biggest hindrances in cleaning up old sites, Andrew Watson, director of business development at MWH Global, offered his insight into the industry.
“Where there is a will, there is fear,” Watson said, “a lot of mining companies that have the financial wherewithal and know exactly how to do this […] are scared to go in because they will get stuck with the entire bill.”
Rep. Lamborn provided comment on his proposed solution to this issue. “My bill, the Locatable Minerals Claim Location and Maintenance Fees Act of 2015, will help overcome these obstacles and allow charitable groups to more easily clean up abandoned mines without being punished by litigation.”
The continued advancements in the technological field has the potential to transform how mining takes place, but requires continued integration between technology and the industry.Click HERE to view full witness testimony. Read More
The House Committee on Natural Resources today passed H.R. 5278, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, with a bipartisan vote of 29-10. Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement:
“Congress has a moral and constitutional responsibility to address the growing crisis in Puerto Rico. The legislation we passed today through Committee provides a responsible framework to do just that. This bill will help Puerto Rico attain solvency and stability while protecting American taxpayers. I want to thank our members on both sides of the aisle for their work to improve this legislation throughout this process. I also thank Speaker Ryan for his commitment to an open committee process and Secretary Lew and Treasury staff for their hard work and collaboration. I look forward to moving this legislation to the House floor in swift and deliberative order.”Click HERE to view the full amendment list. Read More
Today, during the Committee’s markup on H.R. 5278 (Rep. Sean Duffy), the “Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA),” Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) delivered the following statement:
As prepared for delivery:
“Puerto Rico is in the midst of a financial and economic crisis of historic proportions.
“Article IV of the U.S. Constitution states: “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory and other Property belonging to the United States.” Stating the obvious, Puerto Rico is an American territory. Therefore, Congress has the power to enact laws affecting Puerto Rico.
“However, with power comes responsibility. Power without responsibility leads to tyranny on one hand, or abject neglect on the other. For too long, Congress has neglected its duties under Article IV. Congress has sown the wind, and Puerto Rico has reaped the whirlwind. We have a constitutional, political, and moral imperative to act, and this Committee has done so.
“Given the crisis, the question before us today is whether we fulfill this constitutional responsibility. H.R. 5278, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act, or “PROMESA” establishes an Oversight Board to work with the government of Puerto Rico. The Board will audit their finances, figure out the true asset picture and develop fiscally responsible budgets to repay creditors and meet basic human needs. It will restore the island’s access to credit markets, and review laws, regulations, and expenditures to assure compliance with fiscal plans and fair treatment of investors. […]
“This bill is Puerto Rico’s last and best chance to get on sound financial footing and put its economy on the path to recovery and prosperity…”Read more HERE. Read More
Today, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held an oversight hearing on the “Culture of Corruption” at the Department of the Interior (DOI). During the hearing, Mary Kendall, DOI Deputy Inspector General (IG), acknowledged that Jonathan Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service, purposely lied to the Secretary of the Interior about a book deal he improperly obtained for himself, and that Director Jarvis attempted to mislead her team of federal investigators as they looked into the matter.
In a handwritten note to DOI Secretary Sally Jewell, Director Jarvis assured her that he wrote the book at the request of the publisher and on his own time with no ethics issues.
“Do you know why he did not consult with the ethics folks first?” Subcommittee Chairman Louie Gohmert (R-TX) asked.
“I believe he told the investigators that he intentionally chose not to consult the ethics office because he was afraid it would either slow down or thwart his efforts to write the book,” Kendall responded.
In February, the IG released a report about Director Jarvis’ intentional violation of ethics rules to secure the book deal, and the lies that he constructed in an attempt to get away with his unethical behavior.
Ed Keable, DOI’s Deputy Solicitor for General Law, told the Committee that Director Jarvis was “disciplined” via a letter of reprimand, and that he would be required to attend ethics classes. His book remains on sale.
Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) then pointed out that Director Jarvis not only fails to act ethically himself, but he actively rewards those employees who violate rules and break the law like Dave Uberuaga. In the past, Uberuaga was found to have abused his position as Superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park after he improperly sold his house for over three times the market value to a park concessionaire in 2002. Following that illegal incident, Director Jarvis promoted Uberuaga to one of the most prestigious positions in the National Park Service—Superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park.
Uberuaga announced his retirement last week following a federal investigation that revealed sexual abuse occurred in the Grand Canyon’s River District under his leadership. Rather than holding his employee accountable for his actions, Director Jarvis had asked him to come work at headquarters in D.C. instead of retire.
Other disturbing examples include the Director of the Bureau of Indian Education, who used his position to hire his girlfriend and niece—violating federal law in the process— and Timothy Reid, Chief Ranger at Yellowstone National Park, who improperly used his NPS apartment in an international home exchange related to his family’s bed and breakfast. Reid was then promoted to serve as the Superintendent of Devils National Monument by Director Jarvis himself.
In Kendall’s prepared testimony she wrote, “DOI does not do well in holding accountable those employees who violate laws, rules, and regulations. We see too few examples of senior leaders making the difficult decision to impose meaningful corrective action and hold their employees accountable. Often, management avoids discipline altogether and attempts to address misconduct by transferring the employee to other duties or to simply counsel the employee. The failure to take appropriate action is viewed by other employees as condoning misbehavior.”Click HERE to view full witness testimony. Read More
OP-ED: PROMESA Promises Hope for Puerto Rico and Its Investors
By Rep. Rob Bishop & Rep. Sean Duffy
Chapter 9 bankruptcy isn’t the only option for Puerto Rico
With great power comes great responsibility. Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress is vested with the power to “make all needful rules and regulations respecting” territories of the United States. As millions of our fellow Americans in the territory of Puerto Rico face an economic crisis with great humanitarian consequences, Congress must fulfill its responsibility. In doing so, we introduced the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA).
Following decades of fiscal mismanagement, Puerto Rico currently faces $72 billion in debt obligations and over $40 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, an amount that eclipses its economic productivity. Making debt re-payment even more challenging, the island’s economy is strapped by burdensome labor policies, over-regulation, over-spending, and tax collection based on political patronage. Its market is crippled by subsidies and a state-run energy monopoly that provides “free” electricity to power private businesses, music festivals, and ice rinks with disco balls.
As a result, unemployment and energy prices are twice the rate of the national average. Nearly half the island — including nearly six in ten children — live below the poverty line. It’s no wonder that Puerto Ricans are literally fleeing their birthplace by the tens of thousands in search of better opportunity on the mainland. Businesses are leaving in droves as the economy’s tax base is dwindling.
Unfortunately, the situation on the island has reached a tipping point. Puerto Rico missed its May 1 debt payment of $422 million and is on track to default on the next critical payment worth $2 billion on July 1. A new local law makes it legal for the governor to place a unilateral moratorium on debt re-payments. Given the track record of the island’s political leaders, the situation is sure to worsen and the payment rights of investors will continue to be violated. If Congress fails to act, the effects will ripple far beyond the island to places such as Utah, Wisconsin, and virtually every other state whose residents invested their savings in Puerto Rican bonds.
Congressional action must be carried out in a careful and responsible manner so that Puerto Rico is best equipped to help itself. The PROMESA framework accomplishes this by establishing an independent Oversight Board that will restore order, accountability, economic freedom, and prosperity. This is the island’s last shot at mitigating an economic collapse and our best shot at protecting U.S. taxpayers.
Deceitful attack ads from dark-money special-interest groups have surfaced in recent weeks calling previous drafts of the bill a “bailout.” These claims are false and ignore the basic federalist and constitutional principles that are the foundation of the legislation. To the contrary, PROMESA prevents taxpayers from being on the hook for Puerto Rico’s irresponsible behavior and it does so within a constitutional framework that will provide real, long-lasting reform for Puerto Rico. The bill also respects the priority of legal claims and rejects outright an amendment to Chapter 9 of the Bankruptcy Code from which the territories were expressly excluded.
A bailout would be an absolute disaster for Puerto Rico’s citizens. It would reward the policies that have failed them for so long, continuing the vicious cycle of poverty.
First, a bailout would be an absolute disaster for Puerto Rico’s citizens. It would reward the policies that have failed them for so long, continuing the vicious cycle of poverty. Under PROMESA, not a single dime of U.S. taxpayer money will go toward paying Puerto Rico’s debt. This is one reason why many conservative think tanks, conservative news publications, and leading financial institutions all agree PROMESA is the framework to responsibly address the crisis.
Second, PROMESA is not Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Chapter 9 of the Bankruptcy Code governs adjustments of debt for municipalities and instrumentalities of sovereign states with Tenth-Amendment protections, not territories such as Puerto Rico.
Under Chapter 9, creditors are afforded only limited protections while local governments retain complete control over their finances and have the exclusive authority to propose plans to adjust their own debt. Under PROMESA, the Oversight Board — mandated to achieve fiscal responsibility and access to capital markets for the island — must facilitate consensual negotiations with creditors, require Puerto Rico to balance its budgets, and produce audited financial statements. Only if Puerto Rico and its creditors fail to reach a consensual deal, and after balanced budgets and audited financials, may the Board vote — with a supermajority of five out of seven members — to authorize the courts to oversee an orderly restructuring process. Even then, the Board retains the sole authority to propose plans to adjust Puerto Rico’s debt, which can only be confirmed by a court if they are in the best interest of creditors.
Finally, PROMESA treats all creditors fairly by upholding both the U.S. Constitution and the Puerto Rican constitution. The Oversight Board will honor creditor contracts, protecting the integrity of existing lawful priorities, classes, and liens. PROMESA also includes built-in protections ensuring states can never use this as a precedent, debunking claims this act will cause “market contagion” or legal precedent.
Today, millions of Americans living in Puerto Rico and the territory’s investors are shackled by the uncertainty of the island’s future, but PROMESA gives them hope. It will re-institute government accountability, respect the principle of self-governance, protect taxpayers, and build a foundation for economic opportunity. PROMESA provides the tools — and the hope — Puerto Rico needs to redirect itself from a path of destitution towards a path of prosperity.
— Rob Bishop represents Utah’s first congressional district and is chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources. Sean Duffy represents Wisconsin’s seventh congressional district and is a member of the House Financial Services Committee and chairman of its Oversight & Investigations subcommittee.
Click here to view on National Review.
Today, the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing to examine deficiencies in regulatory transparency at the Department of the Interior (DOI).
Transparency is the cornerstone of a participatory democracy, but there are glaring failures from the increasing use of executive orders and questionable science from the self-proclaimed “most transparent Administration.” Regulations have insufficient public comment periods, lack independently verifiable supporting data and the cumulative impacts are never assessed. Time after time, access to supporting scientific studies and agency data are unavailable to the public.
Even lease sale data released by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) this April – but date stamped October 29, 2015 – clearly demonstrated that the BLM purposefully withheld this information from Congress despite multiple requests by the Committee – some requests even dating back to December 2015.
“Agencies have picked and chosen scientific studies to bolster their efforts—and then have failed to even disclose these studies for public comment—as we have seen with the Stream Buffer Zone rule or offshore seismic regulations in the Atlantic […] In some cases just getting information from the Department of the Interior has been like pulling teeth,” Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) said.
Dr. Richard Belzer, former Staff Economist at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), saw firsthand the agenda-driven science guiding regulations and policy. He believes that agencies should have something at stake for transparency and that there should be incentives for compliance and disclosure.
“Much of this research is agency-driven and agency-driven research is highly susceptible to error, bias, inadequate validation and a lack of transparency[…] OMB may be the least transparent of Executive branch agencies with respect to its own actions; why does Congress expect it to enforce transparency elsewhere?” Belzer asked.
Peter Seidel, Americas Chapter Chair and Board Member of the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, has been waiting seven years for a permit from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to conduct seismic surveys in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). Surveys have not been conducted in the last 30 years and future surveys have been delayed due to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) reliance on the Duke model, a study unavailable to the public and financed by federal funding.
“The Duke model, which NMFS is using to estimate incidental takes during proposed surveys, does not use actual counts of animals rather assumptions about where the animals are likely to be found. The lack of transparency in how NMFS has used the Duke model to consider [Incidental Harassment Authorizations] applications is a prime example of regulatory uncertainty and government run amuck,” Seidel stated.
Kathleen Sgamma, Vice President of Government and Public Affairs for the Western Energy Alliance, raised concerns about regulatory action surrounding the Greater Sage Grouse as DOI uses selective science, spins statistics and ignores related studies that work in opposition to their agenda.
“Greater Sage Grouse will have implications across 11 states and 165 million acres in the West. Yet, we had to file three FOIA lawsuits and four Data Quality Act challenges just to get basic information from the Department of the Interior including the BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey. Information that should have been in the public domain,” Sgamma said.
The onslaught of regulations and lack of transparency from the Obama Administration drive economic development away from federal lands and diminish the potential of future energy security.
“The lack of transparency and reliance upon scientifically questionable regulation and policy cannot continue if our country intends to continue to chart our own energy future,” Seidel stated.
DOI was invited to testify at the hearing, but declined to provide a witness.Click HERE to view full witness testimony. Read More
Tonight, H.R. 5278, the “Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA),” was introduced in the House. Bill sponsor Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) and cosponsor Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) issued the following statements:
“Years of disastrous polices have completely wrecked Puerto Rico’s economy. As a result, the island and its millions of American citizens face a humanitarian crisis. That’s why we must allow for a responsible restructuring for Puerto Rico’s debt, and do it without using Wisconsin taxpayer dollars for a bailout,” Rep. Duffy said.
“Tonight we introduced legislation to responsibly address the crisis in Puerto Rico. The revised bill incorporates technical refinements and input from all stakeholders. Any future changes will be done in public committee meetings,” Chairman Bishop stated.
"Tonight's introduction of PROMESA is the first step toward fixing years of irresponsible budgeting and putting Puerto Rico's economy back on track. It's a smart and fiscally prudent bill that will positively impact millions of hardworking American citizens without wasting taxpayer dollars," Rep. Sensenbrenner said.
Click here to view the legislative text.Click here to view a legislative summary. Read More
On Wednesday, June 1, 2016, at 2:00 PM, in the East Millinocket Town Office, the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources will hold an oversight hearing on “Elevating Local Voices and Promoting Transparency for a Potential Monument Designation in Maine.”
Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) released the following statement:
“Unlike the Obama Administration, the Committee will not dismiss the legitimate concerns of Representative Bruce Poliquin and his constituents. The proposed monument designation in Maine’s Katahdin region would be another abuse of the Antiquities Act, exercised unilaterally with complete disregard for local residents, businesses, and elected officials. I thank Representative Poliquin for his leadership on this matter and for inviting the Committee to Maine to hear directly from his constituents.”
The Obama Administration has unilaterally designated more monument acreage than any other president, often at the expense of local residents and businesses. Despite a proposal 15 years in the making, no legislation has been introduced for Congress to consider the proposal through the traditional legislative process, which is designed to require local input. Read Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s (R-ME) request for a field hearing on the proposed monument in the Katahdin region here.
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
Today, the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held an oversight hearing on “The Implications of President Obama’s National Ocean Policy.”
President Obama established the National Ocean Council (Council) in 2010, composed of 24 federal officials. The Council is required to develop a framework for coastal and marine spatial planning—an initiative viewed as “zoning” oceans for conservation, public and economic uses. Executive branch actions related to National Ocean Policy (NOP) have no specific statutory authority and little information is available as to how these plans will regulate and interact with existing regulation.
“This policy is another chapter in the death-by-a-thousand-cuts strategy this Administration employs against the people and communities who depend on our natural resources on land and under water. Federal zoning on both land and water creates uncertainty, which in turn breeds litigation. It’s a clever way to impose a web of federal layers of bureaucracy—a recipe for stagnation,” Vice Chairman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said.
The top-down nature of the Council and lack of transparency has and will continue to create a host of uncertainties for local businesses. Witnesses spoke to their own personal experiences.
“The NOP […] is likely to create new and expanded regulatory requirements in addition to those we have, creating more regulatory burdens and expanding costs to our businesses,” President of the National Association of Charterboat Operators Bob Zales said.
“We still live in the uncertainty of what may happen with this,” Fisheries Liaison of Seafreeze, Ltd. Meghan Lapp said.
“We ask that you, the Members of this Subcommittee, put yourself in the shoes of our family farmers and ranchers as they view these daunting administrative initiatives in the course of growing food and fiber for our nation and the world in an already daunting environment of risks beyond their control,” Executive Director of the Family Farm Alliance Dan Keppen stated.
Administration witness Elizabeth Kerttula, Director of the Council, declined her invitation to testify.
Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) asked witnesses Keppen, Lapp and Zales if they have received any clarity on how the NOP might impact their industry. All answered “no.”
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) questioned the panel about whether or not in their own experience the Council actively included stakeholder input. Again, Keppen, Lapp and Zales all answered “no.” Lapp expressed in her opening statement that as a stakeholder, she does not believe her interests matter to the Administration.
Rep. McClintock suggested it’s a “conclusion-driven process”—the Council has already drawn their conclusions and are only listening to those who agree with them. In this framework, some stakeholders are treated more equally than others.
Six years after implementation of the Council, uncertainty among stakeholders is higher than ever.Click HERE to view full witness testimony. Read More
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