Date ArticleType
6/18/2018 Member News
Vote set on bills to boost onshore energy production

Vote Set On Bills To Boost Onshore Energy Production

Kellie Lunney and Jennifer Yachnin, E&E News reporters

Published: Monday, June 18, 2018

Legislation that aims to boost onshore energy independence and streamline the permitting process is on the schedule for Wednesday's House Natural Resources Committee markup.

The panel will vote on four bills introduced just last week from a trio of Western Republican lawmakers: Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, John Curtis of Utah and Steve Pearce of New Mexico.

Cheney's bill, the "Removing Barriers to Energy Independence Act," would allow the Interior secretary to levy fees to recoup the cost of processing administrative protests for oil and gas lease sales as well as drilling permit and right-of-way applications.

"The energy industry, the lifeblood of our economy in Wyoming, has been severely burdened by lengthy and often frivolous protests on energy projects," Cheney said.

The Wyoming Republican said her H.R. 6087 would "level the playing field" by helping "relieve this burden by requiring a small fee in order to file a protest."

During a recent congressional hearing, Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Katharine MacGregor testified that protests were on the rise: In fiscal 2012, 17 percent of lease sale parcels faced administrative protests, she said, compared with 88 percent of those leases in fiscal 2017.

The "Streamlining Permitting Efficiencies in Energy Development Act" would amend the Mineral Leasing Act to address projects with a small environmental footprint. H.R. 6088, sponsored by Curtis, seeks to expedite the permit process to "create new economic development opportunities in rural communities across the district," the Utah Republican said.

Pearce last Thursday introduced two bills — the "Common Sense Permitting Act" and the "Ending Duplicative Permitting Act" — H.R. 6106 and 6107, respectively (E&E News PM, June 15).

H.R. 6106 would attempt to streamline oil and gas permitting by amending the 2005 Energy Policy Act to clarify "the authorized categorical exclusions and authorize additional categorical exclusions" within the process.

Pearce's other bill would reduce regulations for drilling federally owned subsurface minerals on nonfederal surface land. It would stipulate that the Bureau of Land Management not require drilling permits for such activities conducted on "non-federal surface estate to access subsurface mineral estate that is less than 50 percent federally owned."

Pearce said that "the Bureau of Land Management's inability to timely permit energy activities is costing New Mexico thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue."

The Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a legislative hearing earlier this month on the four bills, featuring testimony from New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) (E&E Daily, June 7).

Martinez said her state loses about $2 million a day, or $713 million annually, in potential oil and gas revenue because of permitting periods that last an average of 250 days.

But during the same June 6 hearing, Democrats disparaged the bills as ways to reduce public input on federal land-use policies.

"My biggest concern is a common theme that runs through all of them and through this administration's approach to oil and gas on public lands. Simply put, that theme is: Let the industry do whatever it wants and keep the public in the dark," said subcommittee ranking member Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.). "It appears to be a guiding principle."