Today, the House passed H.R. 218, the “King Cove Road Land Exchange Act” (Rep. Don Young, R-AK), legislation to facilitate a life-saving road for the isolated community of King Cove, Alaska. The bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 248-179.
“This is truly an issue of life or death for the residents of the isolated community of King Cove,” Rep. Young said. Sadly, this legislation is only necessary because of the heartless actions of the previous administration, which denied previous efforts by Congress to authorize the construction of this road. That decision, which placed the interests of environmentalists and wildlife over human life, was one of the worst government actions I’ve seen in all my years. I thank all those, including Chairman Bishop, for standing by the people of King Cove in support of this commonsense legislation. Without question, it will save lives. The people of King Cove have fought for over 30 years for safe and reliable access to emergency care and it’s past time we make it a reality. Frankly, I will not rest until we do.”
“The people of Alaska who have engaged in this effort over the last three-plus decades have been rebuffed at every turn in which the only answer they got was the federal government giving them an alternative that flat out didn’t work,” Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) stated. “All of the efforts and anguish of these people in Alaska went to naught because a bureaucracy here decided they knew best, despite what the people of Alaska needed. [Do] those of us sitting here 6,000 miles away really have the superior wisdom to tell those people living in King Cove how they should live their life? The simple solution is to build a road. The State of Alaska is giving up roughly 40,000 acres in exchange for 206 acres so the native Alaskan community can have access to medical care. This is the right this to do.”
“It’s time for us to do something to help people, to put people above ideology,” he added.
H.R. 218 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.
Harsh weather conditions routinely ground planes and prohibit sea travel, isolating the residents of King Cove during medical emergencies. At least 19 deaths have been attributed to the lack of a safe and reliable transportation route to access emergency services.The bill is supported by the entire Alaskan Congressional delegation, Governor Bill Walker (I-AK), the residents of King Cove, Alaska, the Alaskan State Legislature, the Agdaagux Tribal Council and the National Congress of American Indians. Read More
Today, the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing “Seeking Innovative Solutions for the Future of Hardrock Mining.”
“Hardrock mining on federal land in the United States has a storied past, a challenging present and multiple needs for reform,” Subcommittee Chairman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said. “From rocks to roads, rare earths to green technologies, and iron ore to wind farms, all infrastructure projects rely upon a mining operation.”
Associate Director for Energy and Minerals with the U.S. Geological Survey Dr. Murray Hitzman laid out today’s reality: domestic and global demand for mineral commodities is on the rise while the U.S. is increasingly reliant on foreign minerals. He advocated for research to reinvest in “fundamental data on mineral resources” and “an accurate assessment” of our nation’s deposits.
“The Nation’s land undoubtedly contains additional deposits of critical and strategic minerals, but mineral exploration by the private sector is hampered by the lack of modern geological and geophysical data,” Hitzman stated.
Thorough research is crucial as the Committee continues to develop proposals for a comprehensive infrastructure package. Infrastructure, economic development projects and a range of consumer goods rely on raw materials, something Mitch Krebs, President and CEO of Coeur Mining, Inc., emphasized throughout the hearing.
“[I]t’s important that we don’t lose sight of the connection between the mining activities we carry out and what these metals are needed for,” Krebs stated. “By eliminating the unnecessary duplication that currently takes place at multiple levels of government and by tackling the lack of coordination and communication among various regulatory agencies, we could bring certainty and a level of common sense to the process.”
Currently, it takes an average of 7 to 10 years for final permitting approval in the U.S. compared to an average of two years in Australia and Canada. Krebs debunked the notion that mining companies run rampant using existing loopholes.
“It took over 19 years to finally obtain the ninety separate local, state and federal permits for the Kensington mine and put it into production,” Krebs stated. “The idea that there is some kind of a loop hole after 19 years, a thousand studies and a trip to the Supreme Court, I don’t think those guys would let a loophole [stand.]”
The panel appeared to find consensus on the need to incentivize mining on federal lands, and discussed how a carefully crafted royalty policy coupled with permitting certainty could add billions to the treasury and state coffers, address the overwhelming problem of abandoned mines and boost job creation.
“The U.S. ranking would be higher if not for the permitting delays. So if you’re going to add a royalty, it will be a discouragement. But if you improve permitting that would be an encouragement,” attorney James Cress said.
Bret Parke, Deputy Director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, expressed serious concerns with the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed financial responsibility requirements under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Beyond the fact that it’s duplicative to state programs, the rule would create an even greater economic burden for state governments and the mining industry.
“Modern state regulatory permitting programs and related [financial responsibility] ameliorate the very risk Congress was addressing more than three decades ago when it passed CERCLA,” Parke said. “These mature and sophisticated state and federal regulatory programs have made the requirement to promulgate the proposed rule duplicative and unnecessary.”Read More
Today, the Full Committee held a legislative hearing on five bills, most of which have advanced with bipartisan support, to reform and improve the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The bills work to empower states, ensure data transparency, improve listing and delisting processes, and discourage costly litigation that diverts critical resources away from species recovery.
“It is my hope that, in coordination with our colleagues in the Senate and this Administration, we can lay the foundation for ESA reform that creates better outcomes for both species and communities,” Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) said. “We can improve ESA if we build consensus to address existing failures and pursue targeted, common sense reforms.”
Signed into law in 1973, over 1,564 species have been listed under the ESA, but only 23 recovered species have been delisted, amounting to a one percent success rate.
H.R. 1274 (Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-WA), the “State, Tribal, and Local Species Transparency Act,” fosters greater federal and state cooperation and data transparency in species designations. It also ensures on-the-ground data is factored into listing decisions.
“These agencies too often overlook local conservation plans that are developed to ensure the protection of native species and habitat. These local efforts should not be disregarded,” Newhouse stated. “By providing states, tribes, and localities the data used to promulgate these proposed listings, an opportunity arises for local stakeholders to get involved and have their voices heard.”
H.R. 424 (Rep. Collin Peterson, D-MN), the bipartisan “Gray Wolf State Management Act,” delists gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes and returns them to State management. The bill also maintains state management of Wyoming’s wolves and relieves both regions of the possibility of further litigation.
“A single judge, sitting in Washington D.C., that I would say had no clue about what’s going on in our part of the world, created a mess by somehow deciding that the wolf had not reestablished themselves in the entire range,” Peterson said. “This was all done in spite of scientific evidence by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that gray wolf populations recovered and thrived.”
H.R. 717 (Rep. Pete Olson, R-TX), the “Listing Reform Act,” allows for the consideration of economic factors in listing decisions for threatened species and also provides more agency flexibility in the petition process to discourage excessive ESA litigation.
“We need to protect our endangered species, but we need to do it in a smart way. Arbitrary deadlines do not help. Neither do sweeping listings that threaten the communities and landowners who have been on that land since before the time states like mine were created.” Olson stated. “We can update the law without endangering our legacy for the next generation.”
“The ESA is a powerful law that can be inflexible and costly, with far-reaching effects on local economies,” Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Glenn Hegar said.
H.R. 2603 (Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-TX), the bipartisan “Saving America’s Endangered Species Act” or “SAVES Act,” removes duplicative permitting requirements for nonnative endangered species.
“The inclusion of non-native species is out dated, overly burdensome, and in fact, works against the very intent of the ESA. Instead of promoting conservation of these international species, the redundant regulation hampers significant non-governmental resources in our country genuinely seeking to enhance conservation of non-native endangered species through captive breeding programs,” Vice Chairman Gohmert said. “Time and time again, in the modern world, we see well-intentioned legislation pit the federal government against the very private citizens who have a vested interest in the preservation of endangered species.”
H.R. 3131 (Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-MI), the “Endangered Species Litigation Reasonableness Act,” caps attorneys’ fees in ESA cases and ensures that the fees are only awarded to prevailing parties. This measure would bring lawsuits under ESA in line with other types of citizen lawsuits against the government.
“For too long litigating attorneys representing non-governmental entities have taken advantage of the Endangered Species Act raking in millions of dollars of taxpayer funded money. In many cases, attorney billing rates have climbed as high as 400, 500 even 750 dollars an hour with hardworking American taxpayers left footing the bill,” Rep. Huizenga stated. “These exorbitant payouts funded by the American taxpayer only impede efforts to achieve the common goal of protecting species and habitats.”Click here to view full witness testimony. Read More
Today, the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held a hearing examining the successes and needed updates to the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA). Passed in 1976, MSA is the primary law governing fisheries in federal waters.
The law requires federal fishery managers to impose an annual catch limit on both commercial and recreational fisheries. Critics of this system argue that it represents deficient science, disproportionately hurts the recreational industry and is unnecessarily inflexible.
“Management of the recreational sector under strict annual catch limits generates devastating socioeconomic effects and is highly unreasonable due to the insufficiency of the recreational data collection system.” Director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Service Nick Wiley stated. “[It] is truly a square peg in a round hole causing high levels of frustration.”
“Sometimes the ‘best science available’ is no science at all, and that’s what hurts us,” Congressman Don Yong (R-AK) said.
“Many of the issues faced by our commercial and recreational anglers could be alleviated if sound science was actually being applied,” Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) added. “I have faith that the new administration will do just that.”
MSA also requires that overfished species be rebuilt within ten years. The industry has generally condemned this provision as arbitrary and harmful to both fisheries and the many communities that rely on them.
“The result has been that a founding principle of the Act has been eroded to the extent where we have lost our collective ability to ‘achieve optimum yield on a continuing basis’ in our region,” Lund’s Fisheries, Inc. Jeff Kaelin stated.
Uncertainty has plagued many fisheries due to duplicative and ill-suited regulations from a host of environmental statutes and, more recently, capricious and disruptive marine monument designations acted upon through executive fiat.
“In our view marine monument designations were politically motivated and addressed non-existing problems,” President of the Hawaii Longline Association Sean Martin said. “Fisheries operating in these areas were sustainably managed for several decades under the MSA and the Western Pacific Council. There was no serious attempt to work with the fishing industry in the designations of these monuments.”
“I may not live in a coastal community, however – like many of my colleagues – I have constituents that want fresh, sustainable, U.S. caught seafood on their dinner plates,” Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) said. “[W]e can maintain sustainability while also increasing access to our waters for all. We can strike a balance and it is incumbent on us to do so.”Click here to view full witness testimony. Read More
Today, the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing on onshore oil and gas development in Alaska. Panel members highlighted the many benefits for Alaska and the Lower 48 if the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) were opened for responsible exploration and development.
“Energy development in the State of Alaska is a key component of achieving American energy independence. Enabling new opportunities for exploration and development, especially in the NPR-A and in ANWR, will create thousands of good jobs [and] generate billions in revenue for the state of Alaska and the federal government,” Subcommittee Chairman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said.
Despite decreased production in Alaska and low oil prices, the industry continues to be the largest source of revenue to the state. For Alaska Natives like Richard Glenn, Executive Vice President for Lands and Natural Resources of the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, related revenues “have provided for substantial gains in economic self-determination.”
“Exploration and development of ANWR will not take place unless Congress acts,” Glenn stated. “But while we're thinking about it, if you're going to look at the National Petroleum Reserve and consider multiple uses, for example, it’s not just a ‘gas tank’ but also hosts valuable habitat, then why don’t we consider the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the same light? That is, it’s not just a wildlife refuge that should remain off limits, but also can host important exploration of the native owned lands that exist there.”
“People of the slope support this development,” Chairman Emeritus Don Young (R-AK) stated. “We can have our subsistence and we can have an economy as the North Slope has done.”
Gary Dixon, Vice President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 959 Alaska, said “it’s not all about the jobs the industry provides on the North Slope, it’s also about the indirect jobs it creates to the Alaska economy and to other states in the lower 48.”
“It would lessen the burden of importing more oil for the U.S. It would help the Trans-Alaska Pipeline with its throughput problems,” Dixon added.
Vice President of External Affairs and Transportation at ConocoPhillips Alaska Scott Jepsen discussed how industry innovation has allowed them to “successfully produce oil and gas with minimal environmental impact” and, despite misleading characterizations, an ever-shrinking operational footprint.
“Many in Congress are under the misguided notion that onshore Arctic development somehow harms the fish, wildlife and waterfowl resources there,” Glenn said. “No matter how many images we provide of caribou, ducks, fish, and even polar bears unharmed and undisturbed in close proximity, sometimes even directly on, over, or under oilfield infrastructure.”
In order for Alaska’s onshore oil and gas production to flourish, steps must be taken to create more certainty in the permitting process and increase access to federal land.
“From a regulatory point of view, the state of Alaska has implemented relatively efficient processes. Our key permitting challenge has been working with the federal government, whose regulatory framework has been less well defined,” Jepsen stated.Click here to view full witness testimony. Read More
Today, Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA) introduced H.R. 3279, the “Helium Extraction Act of 2017.” The bill authorizes the Bureau of Land Management to lease federal land for the purpose of helium production under the same lease terms as oil and gas.
“Facilitating a robust domestic helium market will spur job creation, promote massive revenues to the Treasury and provide stability for essential industries from medical technology to our defense sector. With the recent developments in Qatar, it’s important now more than ever to ensure a guaranteed source of this critical element. I thank Rep. Cook for his leadership on this issue and look forward to moving this bill through the House,” Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) said.
“The looming helium crisis must be dealt with now. Without this bill, we could become dangerously dependent on unstable foreign countries for our supply of helium. This bill encourages the development of American sources of helium and will boost both our national security and economy,” Rep. Cook stated.
On June 21, 2017, the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a legislative hearing on a discussion draft of the “Helium Extraction Act of 2017.”
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. The uncertainty caused by Qatar’s recent political crisis, combined with the approaching closure of the Federal Helium Reserve, could put global helium supply under intense strain.H.R. 3297 works to alleviate some of these supply concerns by facilitating the production of helium on federal lands, while simultaneously providing a fair return to the taxpayer. Read More
Today, the Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a legislative hearing on three targeted bills that facilitate locally supported transfers or exchanges of certain federals lands to improve public land access and benefit local communities, and a bill to authorize the establishment of the National Global War on Terrorism Memorial.
“One of the overreaching objectives of this Committee is to restore the federal government as a good neighbor to those communities that are impacted by public lands,” Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA) said.
H.R. 1547 rectifies a longstanding, unfulfilled agreement from 1989 between the City of Tucson, Arizona (City) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The deal gave the City clear title of Udall Park by removing BLM’s reversionary interest in exchange for $4 million worth of land. Due to administrative inefficiencies, unbeknownst to City officials, the provision was never formally removed which caused outrage in 2010 when the BLM threatened to invoke its reversionary interest and take back the land if the City did not remove a farmer’s market in the park.
“In most cases, we do not support outright conveyance of federal land, but this may be a case when the circumstances warrant an exception to that rule,” Ranking Member Hanabusa (D-HI) stated.
H.R. 2582 authorizes the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) to acquire 500 acres of land already identified as available for disposal by the BLM. Under the 1894 Utah Enabling Act, Utah has the right to select federal lands for the support and benefit of state institutions.
“This solution would satisfy both the state and federal government and help us to keep the promises made to the State of Utah more than 120 years ago,” Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) said. “More importantly, it would ultimately raise funds to benefit Utah students.”
“H.R. 2582 will resolve a lingering impasse between the federal government and the State of Utah over statehood era land grants, in a way that promotes rational land management while providing financial support for Utah’s public universities and school,” Associate Director for SITLA John Andrews stated.
H.R. 3115 facilitates the NorthMet Land Exchange between the U.S. Forest Service and Poly Met Mining, Inc. The land exchange, previously approved by the Obama Administration, swaps federal land for private inholdings within the Superior National Forest and resolves a long running complication regarding the land’s split mineral and surface rights.
“The project as a whole has been reviewed for over twelve years by a myriad of state and federal agencies to determine [if] the project could move forward while simultaneously protecting our precious water, air and environment,” Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN) stated. “[E]xchanging this inaccessible land for property via legislation that is available to the public will expand recreational opportunities in the Superior National Forest.”
H.R. 873 authorizes the establishment of the National Global War on Terrorism Memorial as a commemorative work to honor members of the Armed Forces who served on active duty during the war.
“[H.R. 873] helps this generation of warriors and their families heal, honor and remember,” Executive Director for the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation Andrew Brennan said.Click here to view full witness testimony. Read More
Today, the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs held a hearing to review the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) policies governing the acquisition of land into trust for Indian tribes. The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (IRA) delegates broad authority to the Secretary of the Interior to acquire land in trust for Indians.
The 2009 Supreme Court decision, Carcieri v. Salzar, held that the Secretary may not acquire land for Indians pursuant to the IRA unless they are members of a tribe that was “under federal jurisdiction” at the time the law was passed.
The panel explored whether DOI has implemented the IRA in accordance with the intent of Congress and within the limits defined by the 2009 decision, and the need for statutory changes to bring legal clarity to trust land acquisition policy.
Acting Deputy Secretary of the Interior James Cason outlined concerns with the Obama Administration’s actions following the 2009 decision. The 2014 Legal Memorandum from the Solicitor of Interior that now governs revised procedures for trust land decisions, Cason said “doesn’t respond very particularly to the Supreme Court decision.”
Containing no limits, standards or even non-binding guidelines, the IRA provides vast authority to an unelected bureaucracy at DOI. It remains unclear how many lands have been acquired under the IRA or where all such lands are precisely located.
Witness Don Mitchell, an attorney from Anchorage, Alaska, who has been involved with Native American policy and legal issues since 1974, discussed a 1995 U.S. Court of Appeals decision that declared the IRA “an unconstitutional delegation of authority to an executive branch department” as the statute “contains no judicially identifiable and enforceable standards that limit [DOI’s] exercise of the authority.”
Members on the committee agreed on the need to bring legal certainty and procedural consistency to the trust land acquisition process.
“I appreciate the committee’s willingness to look back at what happened so we can discuss a responsible path forward that upholds Congress’ constitutional authority and ensures tribal sovereignty,” Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) stated.
“The issue of being able to have land in trust is a very important cornerstone with the ability of tribes to have autonomy, self-determination and for their sovereignty,” Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamalfa (R-CA) said.
Whether through statutory change or administrative action, LaMalfa emphasized the need “to give that certainty to [tribes].”
“The discussion today is finding the [right] balance after taking a snapshot of what was done 80 years ago. We’re looking back at that to see if there are course corrections to make here,” LaMalfa explained.
Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) asked the panel to offer recommendations “as to what this subcommittee or Congress could do to bring coherence and some kind of certainty to the trust acquisition policy.”
Click here to view full witness testimony.
Today, the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing on federal offshore oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). Panel members discussed the benefits of expanding access to the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Pacific and Alaska for coastal communities, job creation nationally, and increased revenues for both states and the U.S. Treasury.
“For those of us who live in Louisiana, oil and gas is a way of life that is intertwined with our love for hunting and fishing. The oil and gas industry is part of our geography, our society, our economy, our culture. The Louisiana energy industry has been a responsible community partner for more than a century,” Lori LeBlanc, Director of the Offshore Committee for the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, stated.
“This industry supports hundreds of thousands of additional jobs through associated industry, and serves as an important facet of coastal life,” Subcommittee Chairman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said.
According to Michael Whatley, Executive Vice President of the Consumer Energy Alliance, expanded responsible OCS development is estimated to create more than 893,000 jobs nationally, $450 billion in new private sector investment, $550 billion in increased economic activity nationwide and more than $395 billion in increased government revenues.
“From everyday citizens to truckers, manufacturers, farmers and beyond, our members and the American public at large depend on access to affordable, reliable energy in order to meet daily needs, sustain and create jobs and power the economy,” Whatley stated.
University of South Carolina Professor in the School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment James Knapp pushed for new, modern seismic surveys of the Atlantic to collect better scientific data of subsurface energy reserves.
Kate MacGregor, Acting Assistant Secretary Land and Minerals Management at the Department of the Interior emphasized the Trump Administration’s dedication “to promoting access to our offshore energy resources in order to promote energy dominance, create more job opportunities and keep energy prices low for American families and businesses.”
She also highlighted recent secretarial orders to reshape the 2017-2022 5 Year Plan, approve permits for new seismic surveys, and review and overhaul regulations from the former Administration to bring certainty and data transparency into the process.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to re-evaluate the management of our nation’s offshore resources,” Subcommittee Chairman Gosar added.Click here to view full witness testimony. Read More
Today, the House passed H.R. 23 (Rep. David Valadao, R-CA), the “Gaining Responsibility on Water Act” or “GROW Act.” The bill addresses underlying federal policy, regulatory and administrative failures that have contributed to the mismanagement of water supplies across the West.
“Dogmatic paradigms and failed federal policies that promote water indigence must end,” Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) stated. “This bill reforms a broken regulatory system that misallocates critical water resources and exacerbates drought conditions for farmers, families and communities across the West. Building upon the passage of the bipartisan WIIN Act, the GROW Act fosters water abundance and storage, security and reliability.”
“Today, we take another major step forward to bring our communities the water they contract and pay for by increasing pumping and speeding up the process to approve new water projects. Water is a necessity, and with it California and the entire west will have a brighter future,” Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said.
H.R.. 23 is comprised of seven titles that provide solutions to expand water storage, improve infrastructure, protect privately-held water rights, and create more abundant and reliable water resources to benefit both communities and the environment.
The bill builds upon the “Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act” or WIIN Act passed last Congress which included provisions from the House Committee on Natural Resources to bring drought relief for California and the West by expanding water storage and delivery.Click here to learn more about the GROW Act. Read More