Committee on Natural Resources

Rob Bishop

Bipartisan “Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act” to Help Ratepayers and Wildlife

2015/05/20

Today, the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held a legislative hearing to review the Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act (H.R. 2358).   This bipartisan legislation, introduced by Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) and Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), will improve the safety and reliability of electricity transmission and distribution lines on federal lands.  This bill will bring federal consistency and accountability to how power lines are protected from tree hazards, thereby helping with grid reliability and stabilizing electricity rates. 

“This bill is a win because it corrects federal inconsistency and indecision that governs the way our local power providers can, and cannot, service their lines on federally owned land,” stated Rep. Zinke. “Currently, if a tree falls on a power line that is on federal land, utility crews must go through regulatory backflips in order to remove the tree.  This can take months and in some cases years, and causes dangerous fire conditions in our tinderbox forests. It should not take an Act of Congress to remove a fallen tree…Montanans and all Americans deserve reliable electric service to keep their lights on and an accountable and consistent federal government that will reduce power-line caused fires.”

“The safety and reliability of our electrical systems is paramount, particularly in rural America.  It is unacceptable that many of our utilities continue to see unnecessary delays getting approval from federal agencies for what should be considered routine maintenance and improvements to power lines and infrastructure within their right of way on federal lands,” Rep. Schrader said. “Much of the maintenance is required by federal or state law and the federal government is not holding up its end of the bargain in providing timely, consistent guidelines to our electrical utilities, affecting their ability to supply safe and reliable power to their customers.  By passing the Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act, we will reform this process and provide our utilities with clearer, more user-friendly government regulations and restore some commonsense into these land management decisions.”

The bill has been endorsed by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the American Public Power Association and the Edison Electric Institute

For more information on the hearing, including witness testimony, please visit the website. Read More

Chairman Louie Gohmert Opening Statement at the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Oversight Hearing

2015/05/20

Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-01), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations made the following opening statement at today's oversight hearing entitled "State Perspectives on the Status of Cooperating Agencies for the Office of Surface Mining's Stream Protection Rule."

Remarks as prepared - The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations is meeting today to hear directly from states impacted by what appears to be another harmful federal regulation made by yet another federal agency that is not following the law.

Since 2009, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement ("OSM") has been trying to issue a new rule to regulate mountain-top mining. I say "trying," because it's now six years and millions of dollars later and OSM still doesn't have even a proposed rule to show for the millions of dollars.

In the course of trying to make this new rule - the Stream Protection Rule – the Department of the Interior and OSM have run roughshod over the very states that they were supposed to be working with, according to the law the Department and OSM appear to have been violating.

The states that are represented here today entered into agreements with OSM that recognized them as "cooperating agencies" under NEPA. "Cooperating agencies" are entitled to participate throughout the environmental review process.

But instead of including the states, OSM has systematically excluded them from the process. 

In fact, Secretary Jewell herself recently testified before Congress that the states would have a chance to comment on the proposed rule after it's published, "just like everyone else." Let's see the video of that.

[PLAY CLIP - 30 seconds]

The problem is that these states aren't ''just like every:one else." They are legally entitled to participate in this NEPA process throughout the process.

They have local expertise and practical experience with mining operations in their states that can and should actually form the basis of OSM's rulemaking process, particularly since they normally have more experience in these matters than those creating the rules in their cubicles. This is part of the reason that the cooperating agency process was created and even exists in the first place.

This unfortunately seems to give substance to the view across much of the country that Washington arrogance is exceeded only by its ignorance of what it regulates, and that, once again, more regulations are promulgated that damage states without actually taking the states' expertise & damage done into account.

In any event, today, now that we have heard the statement of Secretary Jewell by video, we will provide an opportunity for the states to be heard. We will also welcome compliant responses to our prior requests from the Department of Interior soon after the hearing today. If the Department wishes to respond to comments made by representatives of the three states represented here today, they are welcome to do so when they supply the answers we requested in April.

This oversight hearing is entitled HState Perspectives on the Status of Cooperating Agencies for the Office of Surface Mining's Stream Protection Rule. " As I began looking into these issues recently, and then began preparing for this hearing, I learned a great deal of information about this issue that we
simply had not dealt with in my own district. That is also why I am particularly grateful for our witnesses before us here today and their expertise. I look forward to hearing about their experiences as "cooperating agencies."

The states are understandably frustrated after years of trying to work with OSM and having OSM ignore their concerns.

This Natural Resources' sub-committee on Oversight is likewise quite frustrated at the improprieties of the Interior Department's responses to this committee's legitimate requests.

This Subcommittee sent a letter to Director Pizarchik on April 2nd requesting documents and information on this topic, including copies of the MOU's that OSM signed with the states. Coincidentally, OSM produced copies of the MOUs only last night _ LAST NIGHT_ over a month after the documents were due. To be clear, the majority of the Subcommittee's requests REMAIN unfulfilled, and we will continue to seek the outstanding documents from OSM.

We are also hopefully approaching a time finally, once again, when an agency or department that inappropriately responds or is not properly responsive to Congressional oversight requests loses a significant amount of funding in the next year.

Some of us believe very strongly that it: a bureaucracy is not adequately responding to Congressional oversight of the people's funds, then those funds should stop being sent by Congress-to that non-responsive bureaucracy. I believe we are quickly re-approaching that day, & I, for one, look forward to it.

Printable PDF of this document here.

Additional hearing details here. Read More

Bipartisan “National Energy Security Corridors Act” Answers National Need for Updated Energy Infrastructure

2015/05/20

Today, the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a legislative hearing to review the National Energy Security Corridors Act. This bipartisan discussion draft, introduced by Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), establishes National Energy Security Corridors on federal lands and streamlines the rights-of-way approval process for natural gas pipelines across federal lands. 

This legislation answers the President’s call for an updated infrastructure that meets our nation’s energy supply, while benefiting consumers through less expensive and more reliable energy.


“All along the East Coast, families are paying higher than average to heat their homes with natural gas. We need an all-of-the-above energy policy that utilizes our existing resources through a modern energy infrastructure, but bureaucratic red tape and outdated requirements have stalled any progress toward that goal,"
MacArthur said. “The National Energy Security Corridors Act will empower the Secretary of the Interior to make decisions about natural gas pipeline projects on federal lands instead of having to go through Congress every time. By streamlining that permitting process, we'll create jobs, give a much needed update to our energy infrastructure, and reduce power costs for families on the East Coast.” 

“My home state of Louisiana is third among all states in natural gas production. My constituents experience the very real benefits of natural gas abundance every day,” stated Richmond. “By streamlining the natural gas pipeline siting and permitting process, we can connect our increasingly abundant supply with constantly increasing demand and ensure that all Americans can experience these benefits as well.”


America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) and the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) sent letters supporting the legislation. Read More

Witnesses Share View that States, Not the Obama Administration, Are Leading on Sage Grouse Conservation

2015/05/19

Today, the House Committee on Natural Resources held an oversight hearing titled, “Empowering State Management of Greater Sage Grouse.”  States have expressed frustration over the apparent reluctance of the Obama Administration to acknowledge the effectiveness of state-led species conservation, and its failure to coordinate with states and local governments.  Witnesses testified on the utility of state conservation strategies and how a federal endangered listing and rigid federal land management decisions could undermine these efforts.  

Chairman Rob Bishop (UT-01) opened the hearing with a statement: 

“More than 40 years ago, the Endangered Species Act was enacted with good intentions and bipartisan support to recover species at the brink of extinction. Unfortunately, with less than two percent of the more than 1,500 listed species ever recovered, the law is failing.

“Cramming thousands more species onto the list and blocking the use of millions of acres of land—including restricting even how our military servicemen can use lands for military training and readiness – cannot be a measurement of success.  States are using resources wisely to recover species and keep them off the list.  We should do more to encourage them,”
Bishop said.

Vice Chairman Cynthia Lummis (WY-At large) stated: 

“The Administration has finally admitted that the law needs more transparency, more state and local involvement, and less unproductive litigation. These are exactly the kind of improvements passed by this committee and the full House as part of H.R. 4315 in the last Congress. Yet this Administration has had a ‘just say no’ policy on ESA improvements for the last six years, including a veto threat of last year’s modest, common sense package.

“The Administration has spurned this committee’s efforts to improve the law, all while defending a deeply flawed system.  Simply trusting that the Administration will fix these problems on its own seems like allowing the fox to guard the hen house. As we review the Administration’s proposals in more detail in the days ahead, I hope these proposals are a sign that we can finally lose the scare tactics and have an open dialogue with the Administration on how to bring the ESA into the 21st Century,”
Lummis said.

“Instead of helping cut through the red tape, federal agencies are focusing most of their effort on finding new ways to regulate human activity. As someone representing a state which has invested decades in sage-grouse conservation, the relentless efforts to force more standardized and irrelevant mandates on the use of the land not only threatens the conservation of the species, but unnecessarily imposes hardship on the hard-working citizens of the West,” said Kathleen Clarke, Utah Director of Public Lands. 

“The State of Idaho holds to the notion that local collaboration, local ideas, and local efforts garner the greatest results. We have a lot of pride in our state, and we are especially proud of our western heritage and abundant natural resources…but as you’ve heard, some of the recent top-down directives from Washington, D.C. have the potential to derail years of positive collaboration,” said Dustin Miller, Idaho Director of Species Conservation.

For more information on the hearing, including witness testimony, please visit the website. Read More

Bishop Reacts to Administration’s Admission that Listing Designations Under Endangered Species Act Require Improved Science, Increased Transparency

2015/05/18

House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (UT-01) issued the following statement in response to a series of administrative initiatives put forward today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service that are designed to increase transparency, expand stakeholder input, and improve the science used to develop listing determinations under the Endangered Species Act.

“The Obama Administration admitted today that the process by which Endangered Species Act listing determinations are made is insufficient, and then asked the American people to trust them to fix the problem. I don’t buy it.  

“The Committee welcomes the call from the Administration for the need to institute greater collaboration with states and greater transparency in listing decisions, but actions speak loader than words. Increasingly under this Administration, ESA designations have been driven not by sound science and citizen input but litigation from national special interest environmental groups. It’s a policy that has consistently led to agenda-driven decisions that disregard states and science.  

“We’ve been calling upon the Obama Administration for years to engage with Congress and address the same exact failures that Fish and Wildlife Service now claims to fix.  It is my hope that the Administration’s admission of these failures isn’t just a press release designed to assuage these concerns, and instead serves as a starting point for a true reform of a law that is badly needed.” 
Read More

Bishop, Chaffetz, Lummis, McClintock, and Gosar Call on the BLM to Suspend the Merger of Arizona and New Mexico State Offices

2015/05/18

Addressing reports that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is considering merging the New Mexico and Arizona state offices, House Committee on Natural Resources  Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT),  House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Oversight Interior Subcommittee Chairman Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Natural Resources Federal Lands Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA), and House Oversight Interior Subcommittee Member Paul Gosar (R-AZ), today issued the following letter to BLM Director Neil Kornze.

“We urge the BLM to suspend this action until it has more seriously studied the ramifications of the merger, analyzed the impacts of previous office mergers by the BLM and other federal agencies, and engaged with state and local governments and other impacted stakeholders.”
  
May 18, 2015

The Honorable Neil Kornze
Director
U.S. Bureau of Land Management
1849 C Street NW, Room 5665
Washington, DC  20240

Dear Mr. Kornze:

According to media reports, you are considering merging the New Mexico and Arizona Bureau of Land Management (BLM) state offices in an attempt to boost efficiencies and reduce operating costs.[1]  We are concerned, however, that the net benefits of closing the New Mexico state office and merging it with the neighboring Arizona office do not outweigh the costs of such an action.  As you know, each state has a unique cultural, political, tribal, social, and economic identity, and BLM’s management responsibilities vary substantially among the states.  Merging these offices under one regional director would significantly reduce BLM’s ability “to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.”[2] As such, we urge the BLM to suspend this action until it has more seriously studied the ramifications of the merger, analyzed the impacts of previous office mergers by the BLM and other federal agencies, and engaged with state and local governments and other impacted stakeholders.

The Arizona and New Mexico BLM offices face uniquely different management challenges that may be exacerbated by a merger.  New Mexico is a significant revenue source for the federal and state government, with over $1.2 billion in royalty payments in FY2014.[3]  While Arizona’s royalty revenue was only $67 million in FY2014, the management of BLM lands within that state bears directly on Arizona’s specific recreational, agricultural, and mining economies.[4]

Such a merger may also create difficulties in dealing with elected state officials.  Coordination with these officials is critical in addressing public land issues and is essential to carrying out the BLM’s mission.  BLM state directors wield a tremendous amount of decision-making authority, regulating the public’s access to hundreds of millions of acres of federal land in the West.  It is therefore imperative that BLM state directors maintain a continuous presence in states they oversee.

Although we support efficient government and the best possible use of taxpayer dollars, it is unclear to us how the merger of these two state offices into one larger consolidated office would lead to cost savings.  We believe there are more effective ways to reduce the BLM’s costs than to simply merge two diverse state offices.  For example, the BLM requested a budget increase of $11,181,000 for the National Landscape Conservation System “to support critical resource protection and maintenance work on National Conservation Lands.”[5]  This request will support 20 new employees and include an additional transfer of at least $5,009,000 from other BLM programs.[6]  As you are aware, the National Landscape Conservation System came under fire in 2008 when it was passed into law for its duplicative nature and BLM’s potential Hatch Act violations for coordination with environmental groups.[7]  Reducing duplication and focusing BLM resources on specific, local projects is a better way to manage resources than creation of a vast multi-state office. For these reasons, we urge the BLM to suspend any decision to consolidate the Arizona and New Mexico state offices. Combining these state offices constitutes a major action that should be properly analyzed and vetted with state and local governments, as well as other stakeholders that will be impacted by the decision.

In order to better understand the impact of merging the New Mexico and Arizona BLM offices, and related decision-making process, please provide the following documents and information:

1. A list of all meetings or consultations with stakeholders regarding the merging of the New Mexico and Arizona BLM state offices.

2. An accounting of all cost saving benefits attributable to merging the New Mexico and Arizona BLM state offices, and the dollar amount attributed to each cost savings measure.

3. All studies or research materials used or created in the decision-making process to merge the New Mexico and Arizona BLM state offices.

4. All potential costs associated with merging the New Mexico and Arizona BLM state offices, including how the merger will impact the BLM’s ability to conduct revenue-generating activities in the two states.

5. All communications between or among BLM officials referring or relating to the merger of the New Mexico and Arizona BLM state offices.

6. All documents and communications referring or relating to the merger of any other BLM state offices.

Please provide the requested information as soon as possible, but no later than 5:00 p.m. on June 1, 2015.  When producing documents to the Committee, please deliver production sets to the Majority staff in Room 2157 of the Rayburn House Office Building and the Minority staff in Room 2471 of the Rayburn House Office Building.  The Committee prefers, if possible, to receive all documents in electronic format.

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is the principal oversight committee of the House of Representatives and has broad authority to investigate “any matter” at “any time” under House Rule X.  An attachment to this letter provides additional information about responding to the Committee’s request.

Please contact Bill McGrath of the Committee staff at (202) 225-5074 with any questions about this request. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Jason Chaffetz                                                  Rob Bishop
Chairman                                                          Chairman
Committee on Oversight and                           Committee on Natural Resources
Government Reform


Cynthia M. Lummis                                         Tom McClintock                
Chairman                                                          Chairman
Subcommittee on the Interior                           Subcommittee on Federal Lands


Paul Gosar
Member
Subcommittee on the Interior Read More

Subcommittee Reviews Litigation Impediments to Forest Health

2015/05/14

Today, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands held an oversight hearing on the impact of litigation on forest management, the U.S. Forest Service’s response to the growing challenge of litigation, and related impacts upon forest health. 

"There is no doubt that litigation has had a profound impact on the Forest Service and subsequently the management and mismanagement of our national forests. Millions of taxpayer dollars are spent on shuffling paper, over-analysis and ensuring process is followed.  We currently estimate planning and environmental analyses are roughly 60% of the costs of forest management projects," stated Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (CA-04). "The increased cost of paperwork does not translate into greater benefits to the environment.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.  The greatest threat to many endangered species and their habitat is catastrophic wildfire. Yet rather than thinning the forest to protect this habitat, we’re spending millions upon millions on extraordinarily long, complicated, voluminous documents that impede our ability to properly manage the forests for the benefit of all species."

Former U.S. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth stated in written testimony, “While many environmental laws were originally passed for good reason at a time when more checks and balances were needed, the situation has dramatically changed. Now communities are coming together at unprecedented levels to find common ground and to address the increasing threats of insects, disease, invasive species and wildfire. Unfortunately, the sheer multitude of laws, and their expansion by the courts have led to processes almost unintelligible to reasonable people. All of us understand that significantly more restoration needs to occur through aggressive active management.” 

“We do not have a fire problem on our nation’s forests, we have a land management problem, and it needs to be addressed quickly,” Bosworth reiterated during the hearing (click here to watch). 

“Given the high threat of litigation and the limited resources to make and review the necessary management planning decisions, the result is truly ‘Analysis Paralysis’! The cost of litigation, as well as time and effort required of USFS staff to address litigation, is a significant burden,” stated Dave Schulz, Commissioner, Madison County, Montana, in his testimony. “The consequences are a domino effect that results in forest management coming to a standstill.”

“I think there are environmental consequences to any action we take, and if we’re not cautious and careful and cooperative too—that can cause harm,” Schulz reiterated during the hearing (click here to watch). “At the same time, there’s an environmental consequence to doing nothing, and that’s what I’m concerned about.”

Visit the website for more information on the hearing and witnesses.  Read More

Chairman Tom McClintock Opening Statement at the Subcommittee on Federal Lands Oversight Hearing

2015/05/14

Rep. Tom McClintock (CA-04), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Lands made the following opening statement at today's oversight hearing entitled "Litigation and Increased Planning’s Impact on Our Nation’s Overgrown, Fire-Prone National Forests."

Remarks as prepared - The Subcommittee on Federal Lands meets today to examine Litigation and Increased Planning’s Impact on Our Nation’s Overgrown, Fire-Prone National Forests. 

Between 1989 and 2008, 1,125 lawsuits were filed against the Forest Service.  Many more have been filed since then and much more case law created.  There is no doubt that litigation has had a profound impact on the Forest Service and subsequently the management and mismanagement of our national forests.  Sadly, litigation has become a cottage industry for some extremist groups whose sole purpose is to litigate the Forest Service with little regard to the impact and destruction they are causing. 

Responding to appeals, lawsuits or even the threat of frivolous lawsuits, Forest Service employees have reduced the size and scope of projects and tried to ‘bullet-proof’ environmental documents required to implement forest management projects.  The goal of the Forest Service then becomes not good forest management, but to prevent litigation or endless legal delays.  The result is thicker and thicker environmental documents, more agency time and taxpayer dollars spent on smaller projects that accomplish less. During the 80's, environmental documents to approve average forest management projects took roughly 3-6 months.  Now they take anywhere from 14 to 20 months to complete—that is if they are ever completed.  

Millions of taxpayer dollars are spent on shuffling paper, over-analysis and ensuring process is followed.  We currently estimate planning and environmental analysis are roughly 60% of the costs of forest management projects.  The increased cost of paperwork does not translate into greater benefits to the environment.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.  The greatest threat to many endangered species and their habitat is catastrophic wildfire.  Yet rather than thinning the forest to protect this habitat, we’re spending millions upon millions on extraordinarily long, complicated, voluminous documents that impede our ability to properly manage the forests for the benefit of all species.  

A quarter century of extremist litigation has placed our forests in extreme distress.  Forest Service employees are demoralized and have little incentive to plan meaningful projects.  Vibrant rural communities that once had an integrated forest products industry providing high wage jobs have faded away and instead find their finances hostage to largess from the Federal Government. Our forests are dying and burning up at an alarming rate.  This is surely not the vision Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot had when they created the Forest Service.

California’s National Forests serve as one of many examples of this problem.  Its national forests average 266 trees per acre on a landscape that historically sustained 20 to 100 trees per acre.  This extreme overcrowding means that forests are dangerously stressed, falling prey to disease, pestilence and catastrophic wildfire.  

Today, we are pleased to have Dale Bosworth, who served as Chief of the Forest Service from 2001-2007.  Chief Bosworth is a second generation forester and Forest Service employee, native Californian and was raised on ranger station compounds. During his time as Chief he provided great leadership and valiantly confronted the problem he aptly named the “process predicament.”  While some progress was made, I think the Chief will agree that much more needs to be done.  

Also appearing today is Dr. Robert Malmsheimer, professor of Forest Policy and Law at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry.  Dr. Malmsheimer has published numerous articles on Forest Service litigation and will give us an update on his latest research.

We also have Supervisor Randy Hanvelt of Tuolumne County, California.  Supervisor Hanvelt’s district, which includes a great deal of the Stanislaus National Forest, was severely impacted by the Rim Fire—the largest fire in California’s history.  For all of the members on this subcommittee that have not seen the damage done by a catastrophic wildfire, I urge you to pay close attention to Randy’s testimony.  The Rim Fire burned 402 square miles.  

Eric Hofer once observed that every great cause becomes a movement, which becomes a business, which becomes a racket.  Environmental litigation has reached this last stage, and Congress has a responsibility to the American people to set things straight.

Printable PDF of this document here.

Additional hearing details here. Read More

Mooney: STREAM Act Fights Back Against Obama Administration’s War on Coal

2015/05/14

Today, the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing on Committee member Rep. Alex Mooney’s (WV-02) bill, H.R. 1644, the “Supporting Transparent Regulatory and Environmental Actions in Mining Act (STREAM Act).” At the hearing, Rep. Mooney testified:

“People are losing their jobs, and the dignity that comes with work. Our communities are also suffering. Fewer jobs means less economic investment, and less hope. The Administration’s new Stream protection rule is intentionally designed to shut down all surface mining, and a significant section of underground mining, in the Appalachian region,” Rep. Mooney said.


 
“This bill, the STREAM Act, is a critical piece of legislation designed to save taxpayer dollars and protect American jobs by calling for more transparency from the regulators. It also calls for more study of current regulation. And it ensures that the regulators stay within their legal jurisdiction as they develop regulations.”


Background: 

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining (OSM) has continually promulgated rules that rely upon opaque “internal studies,” which are not made publicly available. The STREAM Act strengthens the rigor of scientific studies, reports, and findings by requiring scientific products used to inform regulatory actions be made publicly available, and therefore subject to independent analysis. 
 
H.R. 1644 directs the Secretary of the Interior to contract with the National Academy of Sciences Board on Earth Sciences and Resources to conduct a comprehensive study of the effectiveness of the Stream Buffer Zone Rule that has been in place since 1983. The STREAM Act requires an independent study be conducted on the effectiveness of the 1983 Stream Buffer Zone rule. This study will be conducted by the National Research Council in consultation with the Interstate Mining Compact Commission. While this study occurs, a prohibition on the promulgation of new rules addressing stream protection or stream buffers will be implemented to ensure the Secretary incorporates the findings of the study. 
 
H.R. 1644 clarifies the statutory bounds of OSM’s authority by curtailing its ability to propose and enforce any regulation under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 that would duplicate existing authorities under other federal laws outside of OSM’s jurisdiction. 

For more information on the hearing, including witness testimony, click here. Read More

Chairman Bishop Opening Statement at the Full Committee Oversight Hearing

2015/05/13

Chairman Rob Bishop (UT-01) of the Committee on Natural Resources made the following opening statement at today's oversight hearing entitled "The Obama Administration’s CEQ Recently Revised Draft Guidance for GHG Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change."

Remarks as prepared - This is the first of a series of oversight hearings this Committee will undertake on policies involving the National Environmental Policy Act, a law enacted 45 years ago.  The focus of today’s hearing is the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s sweeping draft guidance on greenhouse gas emissions.  

On its face, the draft guidance acknowledges it is “not legally enforceable.”  Many would view it as unlawful. Despite not being “legally enforceable,” curiously, CEQ claims the guidance “will facilitate compliance” and “improve efficiency and consistency” of existing NEPA legal requirements and reviews impacting literally thousands of actions annually with a federal nexus.  

CEQ states:  “Overall, this guidance is designed to provide for better and more informed Federal decisions regarding greenhouse gas emissions and effects of climate change consistent with existing NEPA principles.”  Based upon the federal government’s track record on NEPA, I am highly dubious, and will listen closely to the testimony today for evidence whether or not that is the case.  

This draft guidance sets the stage for potentially sweeping federal overreach by pushing agencies to examine greenhouse gas emissions that are beyond their ability to control or regulate the impacts, including the vast array of all upstream and downstream impacts.  

The draft guidance is overly broad and expansive, and goes outside the scope of NEPA.  For NEPA to work correctly, federal agencies must be able to affect the outcome of the proposed project.  But, the draft guidance on its face goes far beyond what an agency can control.  The result will force more delays, more costs onto economic and energy-related activities nationwide, and uncertainty for those that want to balance needs important to all Americans with protecting the environment.  The draft guidance would even frustrate the Administration’s other goals, such as modernizing the nation’s electric grid to improve energy reliability and resiliency.  

The trend for this Administration seems to be that the end justifies the means, regardless of whether the law allows it.  This draft guidance is the latest case in point.  

CEQ states as fact that “many agency NEPA analyses have concluded that greenhouse gas emissions from an individual agency action will have small, if any, potential climate change effects.  Government action occurs incrementally, program-by-program and step-by-step, and climate impacts are not attributable to any single action, but are exacerbated by a series of smaller decisions, including decisions made by the government.”  

Yet, CEQ concludes that being a small impact is not a good enough reason not to consider everything that could possibly impact climate change in a NEPA analysis.  But, federal agencies have jurisdictional limits, and cannot possibly consider the entire range of climate impacts of things outside their jurisdiction under NEPA.  

CEQ itself acknowledges the limits of the guidance when it says:  “This guidance is not a rule or regulation…[it] does not change or substitute for any law, regulation, or other legally binding requirement, and is not legally enforceable, and does not establish legally binding requirements in and of itself.”  
Which begs the question, “Why do it?”  Clearly, for an Administration that advocates climate change polices as more pressing than national security threats, the answer is that, regardless of its enforceability, the end justifies the means.  They could not get cap and trade passed by the Congress, so now they will address climate change  by forcing it through the NEPA process by an unlawful guidance.  

CEQ is bound by the statute, its own regulations, and case law precedent.  Therefore, any environmental review conducted by an agency is bound to the statutorily prescribed mission and jurisdictional limits of the permitting agency set by Congress and the statutory and regulatory interpretations of the courts.  

In the absence of Congressional action to expand the scope of the environmental reviews for federal agencies by expanding their substantive jurisdiction, agencies, including CEQ, are stuck with the recognition that greenhouse gas emissions from an individual federal agency action will have small, if any, potential climate change effects.  Numerous and exhaustive NEPA analyses agree, and imposing hugely costly and lengthy new analyses will not change that.  

With that, I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today and with any hope, a recognition from the Obama Administration, that this guidance should be withdrawn.

Printable PDF of this document

Additional hearing details Read More

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Contact Information

1324 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone 202-225-2761
Fax 202-225-5929
naturalresources.house.gov


Membership

Dan Benishek

MICHIGAN's 1st DISTRICT

Rob Bishop

UTAH's 1st DISTRICT

Bradley Byrne

ALABAMA's 1st DISTRICT

Paul Cook

CALIFORNIA's 8th DISTRICT

Jeff Denham

CALIFORNIA's 10th DISTRICT

Jeff Duncan

SOUTH CAROLINA's 3rd DISTRICT

John Fleming

LOUISIANA's 4th DISTRICT

Louie Gohmert

TEXAS' 1st DISTRICT

Paul Gosar

ARIZONA's 4th DISTRICT

Garret Graves

LOUISIANA's 6th DISTRICT

Crescent Hardy

NEVADA's 4th DISTRICT

Jody Hice

GEORGIA's 10th DISTRICT

Raul Labrador

IDAHO's 1st DISTRICT

Doug LaMalfa

CALIFORNIA's 1st DISTRICT

Doug Lamborn

COLORADO's 5th DISTRICT

Cynthia Lummis

WYOMING

Tom MacArthur

NEW JERSEY's 3rd DISTRICT

Tom McClintock

CALIFORNIA's 4th DISTRICT

Alex Mooney

WEST VIRGINIA's 2nd DISTRICT

Dan Newhouse

WASHINGTON's 4th DISTRICT

Amata Radewagen

AMERICAN SAMOA

Glenn Thompson

PENNSYLVANIA's 5th DISTRICT

Bruce Westerman

ARKANSAS' 4th DISTRICT

Rob Wittman

VIRGINIA's 1st DISTRICT

Donald Young

ALASKA

Ryan Zinke

MONTANA