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House Votes to Aid Drilling in Weeklong GOP Offensive on Obama’s Energy Policy

President vows to veto bill which would automatically approve permit applications that Interior shoves to back burner.

Bill Straub


November 20, 2013 - 5:07 pm

WASHINGTON – The House has passed a measure streamlining the process for energy drilling on public lands while also requiring an increase in the number of lease sales in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.

In a 228-192 vote mostly along party lines, the lower chamber approved the Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act, sponsored by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), which deems any request to drill on federal lands to be approved if the secretary of the Department of Interior fails to act within 60 days of its receipt. The bill further requires the secretary to establish a federal permit streamlining project in each of the Bureau of Land Management field offices in an effort to further expedite the process.

Critics who might desire to file an objection to any oil and gas lease sales or permitting decisions would have to pay a $5,000 fee to file an appeal. Bobby McEnaney, senior lands analyst and deputy director of the Western Renewables Energy Program for the Natural Resources Defense Council, called that provision “a gross abuse of power, closing the courthouse door particularly on voices of minorities and other local community members trying to improve responsible management of public lands.”

The bill was the first among several to be considered this week supported by the House Republican majority aimed at increasing energy production and lowering the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. On Thursday, lawmakers are scheduled to debate and vote on legislation authored by Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) intended to restrict the Interior Department’s planned regulation of hydraulic fracturing used to extract oil shale and natural gas.

Neither bill, opposed by environmentalists, is expected to survive beyond House passage. The Senate is not expected to consider it and the White House already has announced its intention to veto both measures.

In its message, the White House stated the Lamborn bill will “reverse administration oil and gas leasing reforms that have established orderly, open, efficient, and environmentally sound processes for energy development on public lands. Specifically, this bill would favor an arbitrary standard for leasing in open areas over leasing on the basis of greatest resource potential; limit the public’s opportunity to engage in decisions about the use of public lands; raise the potential for costly litigation, protests, and delays; strip the ability of the Department of the Interior to issue permits to drill based on important environmental reviews, clearances and tribal consultation; and curtail the use of public lands for other uses like hunting, fishing, and recreation.”

But Republicans argued the nation’s energy needs should surmount any opposition arguments.

“With millions of Americans still looking for work, growing debts and deficits and energy prices that are still far too high, the United States needs to implement an all-of-the-above energy plan to responsibly harness our nation’s energy resources on our federal lands,” said Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. “New energy production is one of the best ways to grow the economy and create new jobs to put people back to work.”

But Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) called the provisions “misguided, unnecessary, and environmentally harmful,” noting that the U.S. already is in the midst of “an almost unprecedented oil and gas boom” that has led to the nation’s crude oil production surpassing imports for the first time in 20 years. The International Energy Agency projected that the US will become the world’s top oil producer by 2015.

Hastings argued the production statistics cloud the true picture. The increased oil production, he said, is occurring on private and state lands – areas that don’t face as many federal regulations.

“Federal lands are being left behind,” he said. “However, this lack of production on federal lands is not for a lack of resources. We have tremendous potential for new onshore oil and natural gas production on federal lands, but the Obama administration is actively and purposely keeping these resources off limits. Leasing and permitting delays, regulatory hurdles, and ever-changing rules are a few of the reasons energy production on federal lands is in decline.”

Federal leases permitted under the Obama administration have been historically low, Hastings said. The average time to get a drilling permit approved on federal land is 307 days. By contrast, drillers can obtain a permit on public lands held by North Dakota in 10 days on average.

“It is no wonder that state lands are flourishing while federal lands are experiencing a decrease in energy production,” Hastings said. “That is unacceptable, and this bill today offers real solutions to unlock the shackles that have been placed on our federal lands.”

Holt answered that analysis is “flat-out wrong.” Production on federal and Indian lands in the West has actually “skyrocketed.”

“Onshore oil production from federal and Indian lands, just what we are talking about in this legislation, has gone up every year since the president has been in office,” Holt said. “It is now 35 percent higher than it was under President Bush. Yet this legislation would not just reduce environmental protections, it would gut them, it would remove them.”

Lamborn maintained that his bill “takes significant steps toward moving our country forward on a path to energy independence by streamlining government regulations and reducing government red tape that hinders onshore energy production.” Despite claims to the contrary, he said, “President Obama has waged a war on energy development.”

“Under the administration, a simple permit, which in my home state of Colorado on average takes 27 days to approve, takes nearly a year on federal land. And only minuscule areas of land have been leased for energy development despite significant interest in many more acres. In fact, the Obama administration has had the 4 lowest years of federal acres leased for energy production going back to 1988. The Obama administration has even taken the shocking and questionable step of canceling leases that have been legally bought and paid for.”

McEnaney noted that the bill also pressures the Interior Department to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration if Alaska supplies matching funds to carry out an exploration program. That move, he said, “undermines responsible management of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. It would toss out an existing National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska Integrated Activity Plan, which was approved after 400,000 Americans, including Alaskans, sportsmen and scientists weighed in, and instead orders the use of an alternative allowing new drilling in the Reserve’s five designated ‘Special Areas,’ which are valued for wildlife habitat and native subsistence.”

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) said the provision was requested by a number of Indian tribes and Alaska native corporations to streamline federal regulations and legal procedures that hinder exploration, development, and production of energy on their lands.

“There are 56 million acres of lands held in trust by the federal government for the benefit of Indians, 56 million,” Young said. “In Alaska, there are 44 million acres, a total land mass larger than the state of California. Many of these areas are in untapped energy resources. It is estimated that up to 10 percent or more of our nation’s energy is contained in Native lands.”

But outdated federal policies, Young said, “thwart the ability of tribes to use their lands for their benefit. Leases of Indian trust lands require federal review and approval, which arguably brings little or no value to the tribes involved.”

Washington freelancer Bill Straub is former White House correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service.

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All Comments   (6)
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I can't find anything to like about a proposal that wants to overrule a plan put together by 400,000 stakeholders by legislative fiat. that seems to fly in the face of observing the will of the stakeholders. That probably bothers me more than anything else about this. I think the people most involved should have their plan respected. There is a lot of oil and gas still available and it isn't going anywhere. If you're going to talk so damn much about freedom and liberty then shutup and stay out of other peoples business. You folks can not only keep you noses out of peoples bed room, you can't keep your nose out of their business.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I guess the GOP of today won't be satisfied unless and until we all live on a greasy tarpit of a nation. You mean producing more than we import for the first time in a long time isn't enough? Thank goodness for what the Republican party used to be in the days of Teddy Roosevelt. Y'all commenters here are MANIACS!!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yeah - another of those brilliant bills by Boehner and the RINO brain-trust to show real conservatives that "we're doing something about" (fill in the blank). When the rubber hit the road and they had a chance to kill O'Care what did they do? They lined up like the good little statists that they are and started yelling at Cruz.

More show - no go.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Government should own as little land as is compatible with performing its basic and essential functions. Fundamentally, that means military bases and training ranges, courthouses and police stations. Everything else - EVERYTHING - should be returned to private ownership, perhaps via auction. Of course my minarchist dream has no chance of being enacted, but it is nonetheless abundantly clear that the amount of land in Federal and State hands is too high by at least two orders of magnitude.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well, let's just call a spade a spade and a liar a liar, that is to say, Rep. Holt. According to a report released by the Congressional Research Service, everything he said is false.

Key Findings of the Report:

“All of the increased production from FY2007 to FY2012 took place on non-federal lands…”
For natural gas production in the U.S. since 2007 “…production on federal lands (onshore and offshore) fell by about 33% and production on non-federal lands grew by 40%.”
Because of declines in oil production on federal lands in FY2011 and FY2012, production is now below FY2007 production levels.
The average daily production of natural gas on federal lands decreased by 8% from FY2011 to FY2012 and by 23% from FY2008 to FY2012.
The average time to process an Application for Permits to Drill (APD) on federal land increased 41% from 2006 to 2011, from 218 days in 2006 to 307 in 2011.
“A more efficient permitting process may be an added incentive for the industry to invest in developing federal resources, which may allow for some oil and gas to come onstream sooner, but in general, the regulatory framework for developing resources on federal lands will likely remain more involved and time-consuming than that on private land.”

- See more at:
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Now if we could get enough people in the Senate that were interested in the prosperity of the country instead of their own self serving wants and needs, we just might save this country. Our greatest problem is the fact that we elect people to run our country that hate the country they are suppose to run.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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