Tipton bill would reverse progress on regulating BLM leasing policies
It would not be characteristic of Congressman Scott Tipton to leave Washington before Christmas without leaving a gift for big oil. It’s no surprise, then, that with token bipartisan support, the House recently passed a series of bills, including one sponsored by Tipton, that turn back the clock on Bureau of Land Management oil and gas leasing policies.
“For far too long the Obama Administration has deliberately blocked increased energy exploration and development in America, causing both oil and natural gas production on federal land to decline since President Obama took office. The real growth in American energy production is happening on state and private lands and this bill would bring that growth to federal lands,” said Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash.
Tipton’s bill was passed as part of a larger Republican energy bill called the Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act of 2013 (HR 1965), introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs.
This bill, according to one Pennsylvania oil and gas blog, “would reform the leasing process for onshore oil and natural gas projects on federal lands to eliminate unnecessary delays; reform the process for energy permitting, once a lease is in hand, to encourage the timely development of our federal resources; ensure funds are available for efficient wind and solar permitting; and set clear rules for the development of U.S. oil shale resources.”
Combined, these bills, along with a few companion bills, read like a Christmas wish list for the oil and gas industry.
Tipton’s contributions to the omnibus bill were dubbed by The Wilderness Society as the “Big Oil Profit Mandate,” and the “More Equal than Others Fossil Fuel Industry.”
The first requires the government to lease public land for fossil-fuel energy development without regard to domestic and industrial needs in the United States.
The “More Equal than Others” sections subordinate all other uses of public land to drilling and mining “reversing more than a century of conservation and using lands for their best purpose,” the Wilderness Society charges.
Next on the Republican wish list is the Providing Leasing Certainty for American Energy Act (HB 4382), guaranteeing that at least 25 percent of nominated public land will be leased for energy development.
This bill would also prohibit public review of lease sales. In the event members of the public have the audacity to exercise their free speech right, it prohibits the BLM from revising leasing plans because they acquire more information about the impact of drilling.
Getting worse as they progress, HR 4383 (Streamlining Permitting of American Energy Act) puts a $5,000 price on free speech. It would charge American individuals that sum to participate in public lands energy decisions.
It would cost another five grand for an aggrieved party to file suit to have its case heard in court. Those who do go to court would be hampered by forced timetables for legal challenges to plans to drill on public lands.
Other bills in the package include opening up the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska to drilling, authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to conduct on-line auctions for on-shore leases and a Native American Energy Act to “streamline” federal regulation and “remove the barriers erected by the Obama Administration that are blocking Indian tribes from developing energy resources on their own land, and creating new jobs.”
As The Wilderness Society describes them, “these bills are meant to be solutions, but there aren’t any problems that they actually fix. However, if passed they would create a whole host of new and very serious problems. Eliminating public review of oil and gas development, charging exorbitant amounts of money to challenge drilling plans and ignoring environmental damage is a recipe for disaster.”
This ill-conceived House Republican attempt to reduce, eliminate and punish public participation in selecting, leasing, and drilling public lands owned by all Americans is nothing more than another symbolic gesture by House Republicans to placate their oil and gas campaign contributors.
The Senate never brought last year’s version of these bills to the floor. There is no good reason to bring it up this year either.