Today, President Obama, despite opposition by Maine’s local residents and elected officials, unilaterally created a national monument in Maine’s North Woods. House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement:
“The President is using the Centennial as a cover to subvert the will of Maine’s citizens and leaders. The only votes taken on this proposal, at the local and state level, have demonstrated opposition from Mainers. If the President cared about local voices and improving our National Park System, he would have done this through the public process and not behind closed doors. Instead, he’s hijacked a moment of celebration to advance powerful elite special interests over Maine’s economy and citizens.”Read More
In a recent move, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Abigail Ross Hopper announced a new approach to oil and gas leasing for offshore areas. The proposal, which until recently accepted comments from the public, includes one possible sale each in the Alaskan Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea and Cook Inlet planning areas and, unfortunately, it also includes the possibility of no new leasing off of Alaska's shores altogether — to the detriment of U.S. energy security.
Not only would this possibility be harmful to Alaska's economy, but it could harm U.S. downfall energy security as other countries, like Russia and China, stake their claim in the Arctic.
According to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, coastal states are "entitled to exploit the seabed and subsoil up to a distance of 200 miles from its territorial sea baselines as part of the regime of the exclusive economic zone." Therefore, only eight countries have a direct right to the far north, including Russia and the U.S. And in their quest of Arctic domination, Russia has established six new bases, including 16 deepwater ports and 13 airfields. Putin's reach has even gone so far as to have planted a Russian flag under the North Pole in 2007.
Although Russia's moves may seem unreasonable, in reality their games are smart attempts to establish claim to the expansive oil and gas reserves available in the Arctic. The U.S. Energy Department has reported that an astonishing 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil — or 90 billion barrels — is in the Arctic, as well as 30 percent of the world's undiscovered natural gas. At this moment, the U.S. has an opportunity to thwart the iron Russia's efforts and lock in these natural resources. But without the proposed leasing options in Alaska, these opportunities will soon dwindle to nonexistence and Russia will gain access to growing oil and natural resources.
The connection between Alaskan offshore leases and U.S. national security should not be overlooked. In short, Alaskan offshore leases could secure a stable source of energy for the U.S., while also helping our foreign allies who are dependent upon unstable sources of energy from the Middle East and Russia. The consequential geopolitical impacts of Alaska's offshore leases were further stressed in a recent letter by some of our nation's foreign policy and national security leaders. Specifically, the 16 former officials, including former Secretary of Defense William Cohen and former Supreme Allied Commander and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Ralston, emphasized the growing strategic significance of the Arctic and the important role that the private sector will play in thwarting Russia expansion into the region, whose practice of soft-power techniques, such as leveraging energy resources, influence foreign policy.
History has proven this concept to be true by example of Russia turning off midwinter gas shipments to foreign countries like Ukraine (first in 2005-2006 and then again in 2009). This use of energy as a political weapon not only adversely affects Ukrainians, but also 12 other European countries and Turkey, which rely upon the gas that runs through two major pipelines from Russia through Ukraine.
Russia's grandiose claims in the Arctic, combined with their penchant for using energy as a political weapon, underscores the alarming implications of their activity in the north. In order to hinder Russia's efforts towards energy domination in North America, the U.S. should move forward with the offshore oil and gas leases in Alaska. The offshore leases are not just an Alaska issue, but a national security one, as it affects all Americans who wish to see the U.S. as a leader in energy.
Click HERE to view the article online.
Earlier this week the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the U.S. Department of Energy's application of the Social Cost of Carbon in rulemakings that govern the federal government’s evaluation of environmental impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Created behind closed doors by an interagency working group led by the Office of Management and Budget, the Social Cost of Carbon is a controversial statistical model that is being incorporated into federal agencies’ environmental reviews under NEPA. House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) released the following statement:
“The social cost of carbon was unilaterally inserted into the federal regulatory framework. Virtually any economic activity with a federal nexus—projects as harmless as the construction of a local shopping mall to energy development and transportation infrastructure—is now weighed down by subjective interpretation, incalculable analysis and infinite delay. This case marks the beginning of the growing fury of litigation spurred by this harmful and illogical policy.
“This ruling sets a dangerous precedent. We intend to conduct further oversight and will work to reign in this audacious abuse of executive authority.”Read More
Concerned with increased costs from unnecessary regulations, Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) today sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. The chairmen request that EPA provide both committees with documentation related to the formulation of EPA’s current model in creating a financial assurance regulatory regime for the hard rock mining industry.
The Members write, “Financial assurance is a critical component of any operation to ensure that cleanup, closure, and post-closure activities are carried out once productivity ceases. [… ] Both Committees have a direct interest in EPA’s consideration of regulations that may impact beneficial access to the natural resources of the United States, and the protection of the environment.”
The two committee leaders stressed their concerns with EPA’s failure to analyze existing federal and state requirements and the potential for duplicative regulation, stating, we understand “that the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and the majority of western states continue to raise concerns regarding duplication and preemption. Consequently, while we recognize the importance of financial assurance, we are concerned about whether EPA has adequately analyzed existing federal and state financial assurance requirements to evaluate properly the need for additional regulation. We are particularly troubled with the issue of preemption and whether the 108 (b) rule is duplicative of existing federal and state programs…”
In requesting documents, Bishop and Upton outlined their concerns with increased costs on the mining industry, writing, “If the Agency fails to reduce the amount of the CERCLA financial assurance obligation to account for these programs, it will result in the unnecessary and duplicative imposition of many billions of dollars of financial assurance requirements on the mining industry.”
The Committee on Natural Resources holds jurisdiction over laws that impact the hard rock mining industry and the Committees on Energy and Commerce holds jurisdiction over CERCLA.Click here to read the letter. Read More
General James Jones and General Joseph Ralston
As ice gives way to navigable ocean, the U.S. Coast Guard has estimated that there has been a 300-percent increase in human activity in the Arctic, requiring a new era of public-private partnership. These changing conditions raise the strategic stakes and offer unprecedented new opportunities and challenges for U.S. interests.
On the one hand, melting sea ice will create cheaper, faster shipping lanes between the world's major markets and unlock Arctic energy development, creating a race for 22 percent of the world's undiscovered resources — many of which lie within U.S. waters. On the other hand, increased sea traffic, overlapping territorial claims, and competing economic interests raise important questions about sovereignty, freedom of navigation, and lawful resource development, necessitating stronger regulations and closer international cooperation.
The nations most affected by these dramatic changes have recognized the growing importance of the Arctic and are investing in their communities, economies, and defense.
Russia has staked its claim as the undisputed leader in the Arctic, going so far as to plant a titanium flag on the North Pole. This has been accompanied by aggressive investment, including ambitious new Arctic airfields, bases, and energy infrastructure from which it can project power on regional choke points. Russia continues to modernize its nuclear submarines and add new icebreakers to its current fleet of over 40, including the recent launch of the world's largest and most powerful nuclear icebreaker — designed for military purposes.
Many of our NATO allies — five of which are Arctic nations — have followed suit. Denmark and Greenland have agreed to develop large deposits of rare earth materials and uranium, while Norway has ramped up production of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the High North. Citing its "unpredictable neighbor to the east," Norway increased its defense budget by 9.8 percent in 2016 in order to protect its investments in the Arctic, announcing plans for $19.8 billion in additional defense spending over the next 20 years, prioritizing investment in Arctic capabilities and platforms such as the F-35 fighter aircraft and new submarines. Close NATO partners Sweden and Finland have also increased defense spending, and while it has no standing army, Iceland agreed in June to allow U.S. forces to be stationed there for the first time since 2006.
Conversely, the U.S. has witnessed a worrying decline in its own capability and investment. The U.S. once led the way in Arctic development, constructing the Distant Early Warning (DEW) radar network and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Today tells a different story. The U.S. has just two functioning icebreakers, down from the eight it once maintained. Recognizing the significant capability gaps in the Arctic, the White House unveiled its Arctic strategy, creating the Arctic Executive Steering Committee to realign U.S. focus. However, the U.S. government cannot afford to go it alone; as before, the government will depend on the partnership of local communities, our allies, and private infrastructure investment.
The Department of Interior's review of its five-year oil and gas leasing program – which proposes two new lease sales in the Arctic – could not come at a more crucial time. Private investment and U.S. presence in the Arctic have been underpinned by the oil and gas industry, and it is important to keep all options on the table in the rapidly-changing context of the Arctic. It seems odd then, that just as the world's attention turns to the region, there is a vocal minority in the U.S. urging the administration to foreclose the possibility of future Arctic development, turning its back on the region at precisely the moment when we need to be working with our allies and partners to expand our capabilities.
As two former Commanders of NATO militaries, let us be clear: removing Arctic lease sales will only further signal a strategic withdrawal from the region. This decision will have a profound effect on our ability to project presence and maintain U.S. interests in the Arctic. Energy and natural resources have long provided the lifeblood for economic investment and growth, buoying the local economy, supporting communities on the North Slope, and providing a foundation for continued military investment. With a resurgent Russia and complicated border issues that require intricate diplomacy, it is time for the U.S. to resume its place as a global leader in the Arctic and back its claims with action.
Commentary by General James Jones and General Joseph Ralston. Gen. Jones was a former national security advisor to President Obama and Supreme Allied Commander for NATO militaries in Europe. Gen. Ralston was the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was also Supreme Allied Commander for NATO militaries in Europe.Click HERE to view the article online. Read More
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Gold King Mine blowout near Silverton, Colorado. House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) released the following statement:
“A year later, the Obama Administration still won’t tell us the whole truth. Accounts of events from Interior and EPA have been inconsistent and artfully misleading. The EPA insists they had no plan to dig out the plug, but they did and without testing. There has been zero accountability on the part of the Administration, the only thing that has changed since last August is their story.
“EPA's disaster dumped hundreds of tons of pollutants into a river that flows across four states - affecting farmers, treatment systems for safe drinking water and livelihoods, but no one has been punished. These communities, especially in Colorado, New Mexico and Navajo Nation, deserve better. They deserve answers.”
On August 5, 2015, an EPA crew triggered a mine blowout dumping three million gallons of acid mine drainage contaminated with metals into the Animas River. Contaminated water reached the San Juan River impacting Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Navajo Nation.
Following the incident, EPA pledge accountability and corrective action. The internal reviews issued by the Administration, EPA’s Internal Review and Addendum, and the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Technical Evaluation, offered shifting accounts of the events leading up to the spill. They contained numerous errors, omissions and inconsistencies, some of which are not attributable to error or incompetence alone.
During this time, the Committee held hearings, requested and reviewed thousands of pages of documents from the Administration, issued two subpoenas, and conducted its own investigative report documenting EPA's and DOI's inaccurate and conflicting accounting of the events. The Committee also sent a letter to the EPA Inspector General (IG) raising concerns that EPA officials engaged in activities that could hinder the IG’s investigation.
On September 17, 2015, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, testified before a joint hearing, stating multiple times that the “independent” DOI review would provide authoritative answers as to how and why the spill occurred and whether or not negligence or criminal conduct were contributing factors.
Far from the "independent" report EPA’s McCarthy testified it would be, DOI’s review omitted reference to critical issues and facts, including any explanation for the EPA’s failure to conduct hydrostatic pressure testing before excavating the Gold King Mine adit.
The peer reviews of DOI’s report, including one authored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, strongly criticized the scope and methodology of DOI’s review, including the report’s omission of what "eventually caused the failure."
On December 9, 2015, testifying before the Committee, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Deputy Commissioner for Operations David Palumbo, discussed these concerns and others.
Since that time, it has been disclosed that the Department of Justice is conducting a criminal investigation of the incident. The EPA’s Office of the Inspector General is also conducting civil and criminal investigations.Click here to read more about the Committee’s oversight efforts. Read More
Today, the Obama Administration’s White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued a sweeping and controversial National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) guidance on greenhouse gas emissions. House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement:
“There they go again, more ‘voluntary’ guidelines that must be obeyed by all. Finding the practical and legal basis for this guidance deserves a Gold Medal for mental gymnastics. This will result in significant new litigation exposure that will slow or block most every major activity requiring NEPA approval. When any emissions equals bad and bad equals denied, you can kiss energy independence goodbye.”
Designed as a regulatory compliance framework for projects or actions requiring a federal permit, NEPA has become a magnate for litigation resulting in costly, time-consuming and burdensome project reviews for a range of economic activities.
The Committee on Natural Resources is pursuing extensive oversight of NEPA and the Obama Administration’s abuse, selective application and outright circumvention of the statute.
On June 22, 2016, the Committee held an oversight hearing on “Investigating the Appropriate Role of NEPA in the Permitting Process.” Click here.
On July 22, 2015, the Committee held an oversight hearing on “An Analysis of the Obama Administration’s Social Cost of Carbon.” Click here.
On May 13, 2015, the Committee held an oversight hearing on "The Administration’s CEQ Recently Revised Draft Guidance for GHG Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change.” Click here.At the beginning of the 114th Congress, Chairman Bishop elevated NEPA to the Full Committee. Read More
Today, House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) sent a letter to the Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell about the extreme regulatory burden and overreach of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) methane venting and flaring rule.
“This rule adds another layer of duplicative federal regulation on top of already existing federal and state regulations. The rule oversteps BLM’s regulatory jurisdiction, and completely fails to address crucial failures by the BLM to capture methane emissions through common sense methods such as timely right-of-way permitting,” the letter states.
Members request that BLM detail what measures the Department of the Interior (DOI) is taking to address right-of-way permitting backlogs, which are major contributing factors to venting and flaring. A recent GAO report highlighted that these limitations to existing infrastructure were the main reason operators needed to vent or flare gas.
The letter urges Secretary Jewell to withdraw the methane emissions rule altogether and focus on larger issues within DOI’s existing responsibilities to effectively address and further reduce emissions.
“[M]any of the Department’s regulations penalize and discourage entrepreneurship, overstep state jurisdiction and drive up costs for developing energy resources of federal land […]. We are concerned that the BLM has rushed forward to finalize new methane emissions measures as a solution in search of a problem. Unfortunately, these regulations fail to address BLM’s ongoing permitting delays for natural gas gathering line rights-of-way,” the letter states.Overall, 57 Members of Congress including Bishop and McCarthy signed the letter. Click here to read the full letter. Read More
Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) published its final methodology for identifying and prioritizing species’ listings under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) released the following statement:
“For the life of me I don't understand why FWS needs to tell itself to prioritize the most vulnerable species and use the best available data. That should be a given.
“The law has become a serial litigation tool for special interest environmental groups failing to recover species altogether. If the Administration was serious about reform, they would work with Congress to change the status quo and address the inherent flaws in the law. Anything less is window-dressing that feeds leftist litigators at the expense of species and people.”Learn more about Committee recommendations here. Read More
Today, the House Committee on Natural Resources held an oversight hearing on improving management and utilization of federal lands in and around North Las Vegas. Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-NV), Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and a panel of expert witnesses gathered to discuss a path forward to better serve the local community.
The outskirts of the city are owned in a checkerboard pattern by private, state and federal governments, a situation that is driving up the cost of housing and creating a host of management challenges for local communities.
“Every one of us on this Committee and every witness on this panel supports protecting Nevada’s public lands and preserving our natural heritage. On that principle, there is no debate,” Rep. Hardy said. “But we also believe that there is a better way forward that will protect our public lands while also allowing the people of the Las Vegas Valley to thrive.”
Rep. Hardy proposes more efficient issuance of special use leases or conveyance of certain lands from the federal government to Clark County to better promote the common good for the Las Vegas Valley community.
General Manager and Chief Engineer of Clark County Regional Flood Control District, Steve Parrish, testified to a public safety challenge his agency faces due to the current land ownership structure.
“When our desert flash floods occur, a significant amount of sediment and debris washes into the detention basins, limiting the basins’ capacity for future flood events. Some of our leases require us to go through an onerous and lengthy process with the Bureau of Land Management before those materials can be removed. This limitation on the basin’s capacity is a significant public safety issue,” Parrish said.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) policy is creating significant regulatory uncertainty, causing serious problems for the local homebuilding industry and driving up the cost of housing in Clark County. This means more and more Nevada residents are being priced out of the new home market. Non-profits including Opportunity Village, a charitable organization dedicated to helping those with intellectual disabilities, struggle to build new facilities.
“Federal land, by definition, belongs to Americans and should be used to improve the lives and wellbeing of Americans,” Chairman Bishop stated. “It seems crazy that the BLM can’t identify enough land for lease or sale to satisfy the needs of the Las Vegas Valley. Even more disturbing is BLM can’t even seem to help organizations trying to house citizens most in need of help.”
Members and witnesses stressed the importance of streamlining the unwieldy leasing process for economic growth.
“Smart and fair regulation of federal lands in Nevada […] can help keep the industry vibrant and a major contributor to economic growth,” David Jennings, board member of Southern Nevada Home Builders Association, argued. “Costly and cumbersome regulation raises the cost of land acquisition and development, which, over time, discourages future investment. As investment in land wanes, the homebuilding industry withers and so many auxiliary businesses that depend on development also decline.”
Click here to view the full witness testimony.Read More
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