WASHINGTON — The House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday passed legislation authored by two Republican Colorado lawmakers to establish energy production goals on federal land and streamline the permitting process.
Rep. Scott Tipton’s “Planning for American Energy Act” requires the Interior Department to incorporate all production including alternative resources into the plan so that the country’s energy needs and goals can be set.
Rep. Doug Lamborn’s measure would streamline the bogged down permitting process, which can take years to approve on the federal level but only weeks on the state level.
Rep. Doc Hastings, Washington Republican and committee chairman, said the Coloradoans legislation would remove government hurdles and bureaucratic red tape as well as boost revenues for the state and federal level.
“Energy production on federal lands is one of our best opportunities for job creation and energy security, but time and time again the Obama administration delays and blocks these opportunities,” Hastings said.
“Federal oil and natural gas production has declined since President Obama took office, but these bills would help reverse that trend,” Hastings said.
Both bills passed the committee on 27-14 votes and are now headed to the floor for consideration.
“Far too long we’ve talked about an all-of-the-above energy strategy for this country,” Tipton said. “This legislation literally calls for that.”
“All we’re simply doing is saying ‘we’re going to create American energy on American soil,’” Tipton said.
Speaking on behalf of Tipton’s bill, Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina said the measure would open federal lands throughout the west for development, and compared the resulting economic boost to the success of energy development on non-federal lands in North Dakota.
“In North Dakota, the energy sector is going gangbusters, the unemployment rate is four percent or less – some would argue it’s a negative unemployment rate,” Duncan said.
“There’s a finder’s fee for jobs at McDonalds. When you get off a plane at North Dakota, they give you a job whether you want one or not,” Duncan said.
“We can have that in this country with American energy production, and it begins with opening up federal land onshore,” Duncan said.
The federal government creates a plan every five years for offshore energy development, but not for interior federal property. The omission creates a regulatory limbo, supporters of Tipton’s bill argued.
“Since taking office, this administration has changed lease terms, revoked leases after they had been rightfully paid for, held up development to rewrite environment plans and drug their feet on approving basic (permits),” Lamborn said.
“Renewable energy projects are also being subject to needless delays and regulatory uncertainty,” Lamborn said.
Democrats opposing Tipton’s bill said that instead of allowing more leases, the government should issue fines on companies that do not develop the land quick enough.
“The longer you hold something, the higher the rent — that would be one way to encourage production on those lands,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, Oregon Democrat.
Lamborn’s bill would set timelines to approve drilling applications and dedicate funds from permit fees to the Bureau of Land Management office to help pay for the manpower to speed up the process.
The measure also requires the federal government to lease 25 percent of the nominated acreage, and prohibits the Interior Department secretary from cancelling leases or adding new stipulations after the parcels are sold.
The Obama administration has subjected oil, gas and renewable projects to endless bureaucratic delays while some are tangled up in lawsuits brought by environmentalists, Lamborn said.
“Since coming into office, the administration has made energy and mineral development on federal lands so burdensome and so undesirable that companies consistently seek out state and private lands for development rather than deal with a lengthy and uncertain regulatory process,” Lamborn said.
“Is it any wonder production on federal land has decreased while production on state or private land has exponentially increased?” Lamborn said.