Republicans unveil bill that amounts to energy industry wish list

A group of House and Senate Republicans, led in part by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., on July 26 unveiled a series of initiatives designed to boost U.S. energy production, including coal production.

Hoeven, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and a group of U.S. Senate and House leaders, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., launched a Senate version of the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act of 2012 (DEJA). A similar measure was passed in the Republican-controlled House in June. Hoeven is now introducing the legislation with additional features in the Senate.

As one might expect, the Natural Resources Defense Council wasn’t impressed. “This stale package reveals just how bereft the Senate Republicans are of even one fresh idea -and we all know the definition of doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result,” said Scott Slesinger, legislative director of the council, in a July 26 statement.

DEJA is a wide-ranging package of 13 diverse energy bills, addressing both traditional and renewable development, designed to streamline and simplify regulations, boost domestic energy supplies, build American energy infrastructure and safeguard America’s supply of critical minerals used in modern high-tech manufactured products such as cell phones and computers, the backers said.

“Like my home state of North Dakota, our nation is blessed with an abundance of energy resources and the entrepreneurial talent to develop them for the benefit of our entire country,” Hoeven said. “The Domestic Energy and Jobs Act will take the same kind of comprehensive, step-by-step approach we’ve used in North Dakota to develop our nation’s vast energy resources in order to create jobs, lift up our economy and make our nation safer and more secure by boosting America’s energy security.”

“Our domestic energy resources are vital to my home state of Kentucky as well as the nation at large,” said McConnell. “Unfortunately, this administration and congressional Democrats have repeatedly taken steps to restrict and inhibit American energy production. This bill, however, represents a comprehensive, commonsense path forward.”

“This country’s energy resources have the power to revive an anemic economy that has been consumed by unemployment over 8% for forty-one consecutive months,” said McCarthy, House Majority Whip and a leader of the House Energy Task Force. “Although Washington Democrats refuse to acknowledge the facts that energy development is a job creator, several states have embraced the technological innovation that allows energy to be responsibly developed – thus creating tens of thousands of jobs and igniting a manufacturing renaissance.”

“As Chairman of the Senate Western Caucus, I know how important this bill is for job creation and American energy production,” said Sen. John Barrasso, who is from Wyoming, the nation’s top coal producing state. “It takes responsible steps to streamline the leasing and permitting process for oil and natural gas production and stops the Administration’s attack on coal workers across America.”

The act has in it these initiatives.

Establish an American Energy Development Plan: Requires the Interior Secretary to establish an “all-of-the-above” energy program for federal lands by reviewing the nation’s energy needs and then establishing goals for federal land energy production to meet those needs from all energy sources. 

Approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline: Deems the environmental review process complete and allows TransCanada to construct the northern leg of this controversial pipeline immediately except in Nebraska, while the state continues its routing process within the state. Keystone XL would bring 830,000 barrels of oil per day to U.S. refineries, including 100,000 barrels a day from U.S. producers. 

Freeze and Study the Impact of U.S Environmental Protection Agency Rules on Gasoline Regulations: Requires an interagency task force to conduct a cumulative analysis on certain EPA rules and actions that affect the price of gasoline and diesel fuels.  

Provide Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Certainty: Requires a minimum annual acreage leasing plan that makes available at least 25% of the lands open for leasing each year and set firm timelines for the Interior Secretary to issue leases and adjudicate lease protests. It would prohibit the Secretary from withdrawing leases and adding additional lease stipulations after they have been sold. 

Advance Offshore Wind Production: Allows weather site testing for wind, tidal, current and solar mapping to discover and catalog potential energy on or in the waters of the Outer Continental Shelf. The bill limits the size of testing to one acre on the seafloor or five acres on the surface, and sets a 30-day deadline for issuance of a permit to test. 

Streamline Energy Permitting: Establishes a cost-recovery mechanism for permitting and protests and ensures that U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) permitting offices have the resources necessary to approve energy development on federal lands. It includes hard timelines on permit approvals, cuts red tape, and reduces litigation. It applies to oil, natural gas, wind, coal, solar and other energy project permitting. 

Provide Access to the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska (NPRA): Provides for leasing in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, an area of land on the Alaska North Slope managed by the BLM. The bill would reaffirm Congress’ intent that the land’s main purpose is for oil and natural gas resources and requires at least one lease sale in areas most likely to produce oil. It also directs the Interior and Transportation secretaries to work toward the development of pipelines and roads in the reserve. 

Hold BLM Live Internet Auctions: Gives the Interior Secretary the authority to conduct Internet-based auctions for onshore leases to ensure the best return to the federal taxpayer, reduce fraud and secure the leasing process. 

Establish a Mining Law Program or Solid Minerals Leasing Program: Freezes the Interior Department’s attempt to shift some regulation of coal mines from the U.S. Office of Surface Mining to the BLM or Office of Natural Resources Revenue. 

Increase State Revenue Sharing for Outer Continental Shelf Revenues: Changes the total amount a state can receive from Outer Continental Shelf revenues from $500,000 per year to $750,000 for the years 2023 to 2055. 

Offer Lease Sales off Virginia Coast: Directs the Interior Secretary to offer minerals off Virginia in a lease sale. The area covered by the sale is about 2.9 million acres at least 50 miles offshore of Virginia. This area may contain 130 million barrels of oil and 1.14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Limit New Regulations on Surface Mining: Prohibits the Interior Secretary from approving any regulation that would adversely impact employment in coal mines in the U.S.; cause a reduction in revenue received by the federal government or any state, tribal, or local government; reduce the amount of coal available for domestic consumption or for export; designate any area as unsuitable for surface coal mining and reclamation operations; or expose the U.S. to liability for taking the value of privately-owned coal through regulation.

Establish a Critical Minerals Policy Act: Directs the U.S. Geological Survey to establish a list of minerals critical to the U.S. economy and sets forth a set of policies that will bolster critical mineral production, expand manufacturing and promote recycling and alternatives – all while maintaining environmental protections. 

 

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.