Tipton, former GJ mayor spar over energy
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton doesn’t like the way President Barack Obama’s administration has handled energy development on federal lands.
That’s why the Cortez Republican got the House Subcommittee on Energy and Minerals to take testimony Wednesday on his bill to require the U.S. Department of the Interior to develop an all-of-the-above approach when it comes to energy development.
“Currently, unpredictable leasing programs, permitting backlogs, inconsistent policies as well as rampant litigation inhibit private companies from producing energy on federally controlled lands,” Tipton told the committee. “This convoluted framework stymies the development of all energy resources, from oil and gas to wind and solar and hydropower. This administration’s policies have rendered energy production on public lands so costly and burdensome that companies that once provided valuable jobs in the 3rd District of Colorado and across the West are being forced to seek out state and private lands for development.”
But former Grand Junction Mayor Jim Spehar told the committee it isn’t Obama’s policies that have done that, but a slew of other reasons, not the least of which is there are far more energy resources on private lands that are cheaper for drillers to get at.
Spehar said the major constraint on drilling on federal lands is low commodity prices.
He said Tipton’s bills would force the federal government to prioritize energy development on federal lands over other uses, saying it makes little sense to push a traditionally volatile industry over more stable businesses, such as tourism and agriculture.
“In western Colorado, the ever-increasing presence of recreation-based jobs bolsters the economy,” Spehar said. “Just as importantly, small businesses, large companies and skilled workers call western Colorado home because of the quality of life provided by access to nearby public lands. Arbitrary leasing quotas would limit multiple uses in favor of the boom and bust nature of extractive industries.”
Tipton countered that nothing in his measure, HR1394, prioritizes anything nor does it seek to circumvent any environmental law or regulation associated with development.
“This is going to be a balanced approach,” Tipton told Spehar. “It’s simply to be able to responsibly develop these resources and get people back to work.”
Spehar went on to criticize Tipton’s bill and a measure to streamline onshore energy drilling introduced by U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Republican who represents Colorado’s 5th Congressional District.
Spehar said the nation for the first time since 1949 has become an energy exporter, and the two bills seem more intent on shipping that fuel to foreign markets. The bills await a vote by the full House Natural Resources Committee before they can head to the full House.