Today, Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement after the U.S. Senate voted to confirm Sonny Perdue as Secretary of the Department of Agriculture:“I congratulate Secretary Perdue on his confirmation. I look forward to working with him on a comprehensive wildfire and forest management package in the months ahead and other measures to restore the health of our federal forests, expand recreational opportunities for the public, promote responsible livestock grazing and rebuild our rural economies.” Read More
House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) today announced a number of senior staff changes for the 115th Congress.
Kiel Weaver, staff director for the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans, is leaving the Committee to join the office of House Speaker Paul Ryan. Beginning May 1, Kiel will serve as the Speaker’s adviser on energy and environment issues. Bill Cooper, staff director for the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, and Rob Gordon, staff director for the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, are also departing the Committee.
“Kiel has been an invaluable member of our staff for many years. His mastery of water and power issues in particular, along with his sense of humor and wit, will be missed. I thank him for his years of dedication to the Committee. The Speaker has made a superb choice and we look forward to working with him in this new role. Bill Cooper and Rob Gordon were absolutely critical in laying the foundation for many of the Committee’s key accomplishments during the 114th Congress. I thank them for their service and tireless efforts and wish them the very best in future endeavors,” Bishop said.
William Ball has been appointed as staff director for the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans. For the past two years, Bill served as professional staff on the subcommittee handling oceans and fisheries issues. From 2010-2015, he worked for his home state Senator, Susan Collins of Maine, focusing on fisheries policy and related appropriations. Bill grew up in a generational commercial fishing family in South Thomaston, Maine, where he ran his own fishing business from 2004-2009.
Andrew Vecera has been appointed as staff director for the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. A legislative and regulatory attorney with a background in energy and environmental law, Andrew began work for the Committee in 2013 serving as counsel on oversight issues. For the past two years, he has served as counsel for the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.
Sang Yi has been appointed as staff director for the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Since August 2016, Sang has served as senior counsel on the subcommittee handling a variety of oversight issues and investigations relating to energy and mineral resources, federal lands, Native Americans, and water resources. Previously, he served as senior policy advisor for the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, where he worked for two different chairmen from 2011-2016. A Lieutenant Commander, Sang, has served in the U.S. Navy Reserve since 2003.
"I am excited to announce the senior staff appointments of Bill Ball, Andrew Vecera and Sang Yi,” Bishop stated. “These individuals have become trusted advisors and bring a wealth of expertise and experience to these leadership roles as we begin a robust legislative and oversight agenda in the 115th.”Read More
Today, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced the appointment of Katharine MacGregor, former senior professional staff on the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management at the Department of the Interior. Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement:
“Secretary Zinke made a fantastic decision with this appointment. Kate has been a force on these issues and an invaluable resource to our Committee and Capitol Hill for many years. She brings a wealth of knowledge and energy to this important leadership post and will be a tremendous asset to the Department at a critical time. I wish her the very best and congratulate her on this appointment.”
During her time with the Natural Resources Committee, MacGregor’s portfolio included offshore leasing as well as oil and gas issues. In her new role at the Department, she will advise the Secretary and Assistant Secretary on energy development and public land use.Read More
Today, the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a legislative hearing on H.R. 1731 (Rep. Hal Rogers, R-KY), the “Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More Act of 2017” or “RECLAIM Act.”
“[H.R. 1731] finds a hard struck balance between many interested states and interested parties… this bill represents how an existing federal program can be leveraged to provide an economic stimulus for numerous states,” Subcommittee Chairman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said.
The RECLAIM Act addresses outstanding abandoned mine lands (AML) issues, including ensuring that monies authorized to be spent under the program are limited to reclamation work alone, while encouraging economic revitalization in coal communities nationwide.
“I sponsored the RECLAIM Act to help revitalize coal communities all across the nation that have been devastated by the downturn of the coal industry. In my District in Eastern Kentucky, we have lost over 11,6000 coal mining jobs over the last 8 years,” Rep. Rogers said.
Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA), representative for Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District and an original cosponsor of the RECLAIM Act, talked about supporting growth in coal-reliant communities and the need to safeguard AML funds for reclamation purposes. Pennsylvania’s 5th district has the most AML sites of any congressional district in the country.
“One of my counties, Clearfield County, has more abandoned mine sites than the State of New Mexico… There is a need for reclamation and this money was contributed by hard working coal miners. First and foremost we really need to make sure that it’s being used for the purpose of what it was intended,” Rep. Thompson said.
Robert Scott, Director of the Division of Abandoned Mine Land in the Kentucky Department of Natural Resources, testified that the bill would accelerate both reclamation and economic benefits.
“The balanced approach in H.R. 1731, if carefully implemented, offers the potential to accelerate progress with reclamation, and in turn, to accelerate the economic and community benefits that progress brings,” Scott stated.
Click here to view full witness testimony.Read More
Today, the Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a legislative hearing on a slate of bills that would approve targeted land transfers to facilitate critical infrastructure development and job creation.
“Sadly, these bills are necessary because the federal government has not recently been that good neighbor, and ideological zealots in our land management agencies have been obstructing vital local infrastructure projects and running roughshod over the wishes and jurisdictions of local communities,” Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA) stated.
H.R. 218, introduced by Rep. Don Young (R-AK), authorizes a land exchange to facilitate the construction of a road linking the City of King Cove to the City of Cold Bay to access a modern airport.
“Who would have believed that this battle for safe access would have taken decades – a right that most people in the United States enjoy daily?” Della Trumble, a member of the Agdaagux Tribe of King Cove, speaking on behalf of the residents of King Cove, stated.
Harsh weather conditions in winter and the lack of infrastructure has resulted in a number of fatal accidents over the years. The land exchange will facilitate the construction of a life-saving evacuation route road to provide access to hospitals and emergency services for the 1,000 residents of King Cove.
“We desperately need the 11-mile, one-lane gravel road connecting King Cove to the Cold Bay Airport… No mother should ever have to witness their own precious daughter crash-land at the King Cove Airstrip and it should not be happening in this day and age,” Trumble continued.
H.R. 497, introduced by Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA), exchanges Bureau of Land Management land within the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District to expand existing aggregate mining operations, establish protected habitat for threated and endangered species and facilitate locally supported land management agreements.
“HR 497 represents the culmination of more than a dozen years of planning and cooperation among 12 local agencies in Southern California,” General Manager of the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District Daniel Cozad said. “It supports local communities and businesses while protecting… critical habitat and four endangered species.””
The bill, cosponsored by Rep. Pet Aguilar (D-CA), could result in $8.5 million in new infrastructure projects and a $36 million increase in annual payrolls from the new site.
Similarly, H.R. 1728, introduced by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), would modify the boundary of the Morley Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area to facilitate the completion of the segments of the Gateway West Transmission Line in Idaho. It is estimated that the project will result in 1,200 new jobs and $3.5 billion in private investment.
Click here to view full witness testimony.Read More
Yesterday, President Trump signed into law H.J. Res. 69 sponsored by Rep. Don Young (R-AK). The joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act overturns the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) rule on “Non-Subsistence Take of Wildlife, and Public Participation and Closure Procedures, on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska.”
“The resolution recognizes that states, like Alaska, have successfully managed their wildlife for generations and the hostile takeover by the national fish and wildlife bureaucrats would only screw it up. I thank President Trump for signing this resolution that reaffirms confidence in the intelligence and goodness of the American people, stopping the harassment from Washington 'experts' and curbing abusive overreach from the federal bureaucracy,” Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) said.
“Upholding the rule of law and protecting Alaska’s authority to manage fish and game throughout our state is critically important to me – which is why I worked tirelessly to eliminate this unlawful rule from the federal register. The Obama administration never ceased to amaze me when it came to trampling upon the promises made to the Alaskan people, and this rule was yet another blow to the rural residents of my state. I applaud all those that stood united with the Alaskan people. I’m proud to say logic, reason and the law won the day,” Chairman Emeritus Young stated.
On August, 5, 2016, FWS issued its final rule, which seizes authority away from the State of Alaska to manage fish and wildlife for both recreational and non-subsistence uses on federal wildlife refuges in Alaska.
The Congressional Review Act empowers Congress to review new federal regulations issued by government agencies. With the passage of a joint resolution and the signature of the president, Congress can overrule a regulation.
Click here for additional information on the rule.
Today, the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans discussed two bills that would expand hydropower infrastructure and clean energy for communities in Alaska and across the West.
“This hearing marks another step towards improving our nation’s infrastructure. Today’s main focus is on what we can do to empower regional, state and local leaders in developing hydropower at zero federal cost,” Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) said.
Rep. Lamborn’s Discussion Draft, the “Bureau of Reclamation Pumped Storage Hydropower Development Act,” streamlines the permitting of non-federal pumped storage hydroelectric projects at some Bureau of Reclamation facilities.
Scott Cameron, Special Assistant to the Secretary at the Department of the Interior (DOI), shared DOI’s strong support for the Discussion Draft.
“We see the language in the draft legislation as providing opportunities to streamline the permitting process which we hope may encourage the development of these sorts of hydropower projects across the country. This language would minimize the regulatory burden… [by simplifying] the permitting from two processes and two different agencies to one process and one agency,” Cameron stated.
Tim Culbertson, Secretary-Manager for Columbia Basin Hydropower, testified that the Banks Lake pumped storage project would provide 1,500-2,000 direct and indirect jobs during the 8-10 year construction timeline. Once constructed the project would continue to provide employment for 100-200 full time employees and supply a significant tax base for surrounding communities through public-private partnerships.
H.R. 220, introduced by Rep. Don Young (R-AK), authorizes the expansion of the Terror Lake hydroelectric project on Kodiak Island, Alaska. Approving the bill will add 33,000 megawatt-hours of generation each year for the Island’s residents, but it is critical that it moves in a timely fashion to match up with the short construction season on Kodiak Island.
“H.R. 220 is a common-sense approach for meeting Kodiak’s projected energy growth by maximizing existing infrastructure and meeting our community’s commitment to clean, affordable and reliable energy,” President and CEO of Kodiak Electric Association, Inc. Darron Scott said.
Every year the project is delayed Kodiak communities must rely on expensive diesel fuel to meet energy demand, while ratepayers – including the U.S. Coast Guard – would incur $11 million in additional project costs.
Click here to view full witness testimony.Read More
Today, Representatives Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) introduced H.R. 1873, the “Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act.” The bipartisan bill, cosponsored by Reps. Bruce Westerman (R-AR), Jim Costa (D-CA), Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), improves the safety and reliability of the electric grid on federal lands, and reduces the threat of catastrophic wildfires and costly electricity blackouts.
“This bipartisan legislation is beneficial for everyone involved, decreasing the risk of blackouts, lowering costs for utilities and the Forest Service and preventing forest fires. A single tree falling on a transmission line can cause blackouts for thousands of homes and spark a fire that devastates a National Forest, but existing red tape can prevent removal of dangerous trees for months. Under this legislation, rural electric co-ops, utilities and municipal power providers will be able to proactively remove hazardous trees before they become problems, not after they’ve caused a fire. I’m pleased to work with Rep. Schrader and our bipartisan coalition to ensure that the federal government works with electric providers to keep the lights on, protect rural communities and keep our National Forests safe,” LaMalfa said.
“Properly maintained rights-of-way is essential for public safety and enhancing the reliability of our electrical grid. The LaMalfa-Schrader bill is a no-brainer and this should not be controversial. Preventing forest fires and maintaining a reliable electrical grid should be a priority for everybody. Our utilities need a streamlined and consistent process for being able to get out on the ground and remove hazardous vegetation before it can cause a wildfire. This is exactly what our bill does. State and federal laws require routine maintenance on federal lands, but bureaucratic red tape from federal agencies has been stalling that maintenance, slowing down our electrical utilities’ ability to safely supply dependable electricity.” Schrader stated.
“Management of our federal forests and lands is vital to protecting infrastructure, natural resources and American lives. This bill will ensure that commonsense measures are taken to protect power lines, conserve our public lands and reduce the threat of wildfire. I thank Congressmen LaMalfa and Schrader for working together in a bipartisan way to address such an important need, especially in western states where overgrown federal forests can ignite a power line, interrupt electricity service and hurt the environment,” Westerman said.
“Proper forest management is crucial for the prevention of wildfires, and this legislation would not only ensure better forest clean-up, but it will enable utilities to safely supply electricity to rural regions of the country,” Costa stated.
Last Congress, H.R. 2358, the “Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act,” was introduced by Reps. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR). On May 20, 2015, it passed the House in a larger energy package – H.R. 8, the “North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act.”Read More
Today, the Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke issued a Secretarial Order to formally end the coal leasing moratorium and reinstate the royalty advisory committee. House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement:
“This moratorium was a hallmark policy of the prior administration to stomp out coal with absolutely no plan to replace our most abundant domestic energy source. In the House, we’ve worked hard to empower states and tribes and promote a diverse energy portfolio. It’s reassuring to now have partners at Interior and the White House working to advance these shared goals.”
On January 15, 2016, the Obama administration announced the coal lease moratorium on Federal lands.
Last Congress, the Committee passed H.R. 5259 (Rep. Ryan Zinke), the “Certainty for States and Tribes Act,” which would reestablish DOI’s Royalty Policy Committee to create a more transparent and cooperative process in royalty management issues.Read More
Today, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held an oversight hearing on delays and uncertainty related to Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultations. Subcommittee Chairman Raúl Labrador (R-ID) reacted to testimony from witnesses that recounted personal experiences with extensive delays as a result of ESA consultations that ultimately jeopardized human health and safety, harmed small businesses and, in many cases, further imperiled species.
“The testimony we heard today is crystal clear that we need – in an infrastructure package or legislation moving forward – to address ESA for people and species. This law is a lawyer’s dream that has the power to block projects entirely while taxpayers foot the bill,” Subcommittee Chairman Labrador said.
Protracted consultation timelines are particularly concerning when delays hold up projects that benefit the environment according to Jonathan Wood, an attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation.
“If the slow, burdensome consultation process causes communities to delay necessary upgrades and improvements, then the environment and endangered species could ultimately pay the price when that infrastructure fails,” Wood stated.
Douglas Stiles, General Manager of the Hecla Mining Company, specifically spoke to the broken legal system when it comes to listing and consultation.
“The current system is abused by non-profit organizations pursuing procedural litigation on emotional issues in cases disconnected from the Act’s original purpose,” Stiles stated. “The guarantee of litigation following an Agency decision has added decades to the permitting timeline and millions of dollars to permitting costs with no benefit to the species.”
Ron Calkins, President of the American Public Works Association, similarly called for reforms to the statue while noting that species recovery and critical infrastructure projects are not mutually exclusive.
“We need a better balance between the protection of endangered species and the ability to implement important public works and infrastructure projects especially when public safety and health is threatened by a lack of water supply,” Calkins said.
Click here to view full witness testimony.Read More