NPCA submitted the following position to members of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources ahead of a hearing scheduled for June 20, 2019.
NPCA urges members to support H.R. 3225: Restoring Community Input and Public Protections in Oil and Gas Leasing Act of 2019, when it comes before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources for a hearing on Thursday, June 20th.
For decades, the oil and gas industry has been able to lease federal public lands, often lands that immediately border national parks, for a price per acre that is less than the cost of a cup of coffee, with little transparency. Additionally, the past decade has seen unprecedented growth in the domestic oil and gas sector—this growth has outpaced our ability to prevent damage to nearby lands, including national parks. As a result, significant damage has already occurred; park landscapes have become industrialized, fragmenting habitat, harming air and water quality, and degrading the experience for park visitors. A park like Dinosaur National Monument in Utah and Colorado now has oil and gas wells as close as three miles from the park—industrialization that creates excessive industrial traffic and methane waste that combined, negatively impacts the region’s air quality and local economy that depends on park visitation.
Furthermore, the current administration has essentially cut the public out of the decision-making processes when it comes to oil and gas development and public lands management; parks have suffered because of it. By shortening public comment periods, cutting protest period times, making environmental review optional, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has limited the ability of park advocates to weigh in when parks could be negatively impacted by a lease sale.
The Restoring Community Input and Public Protections in Oil and Gas Leasing Act seeks to reform the oil and gas leasing process to address the many concerns outlined above, including to better involve public input in oil and gas lease sales, ensure national park landscapes are considered when the BLM is planning for oil and gas development and to increase transparency in the lease sale process. Taken together, these reforms will provide national parks with stronger protections from the impacts of nearby oil and gas development on federal public lands.
Specifically, H.R. 3225 would restore extensive public comment periods on lease sales and stakeholder-driven Master Leasing Plans previously administered by the BLM from 2009-2016. These plans were based on a wide range of stakeholders jointly determining the best way to manage across a landscape to protect multiple uses and ensure that special places, such as national parks, would not be harmed by irresponsible oil and gas development. These plans had input from local communities, state and local elected officials, tribes, private landowners, federal land management agencies and any other interested party. These plans were successful in allowing for oil and gas development while also protecting the interests of all stakeholders and other federal public lands.
Finally, the oil and gas leasing process does not require the federal government to routinely evaluate and strengthen its fiscal policies to ensure taxpayers, not private industry, are the primary beneficiaries of oil and gas development on public lands. Oil and gas companies can purchase leases on federal lands for a mere $1.50 per acre if there are no other bids at the actual minimum bid rate of $2 per acre. There are no fees for nominating a parcel for oil and gas leasing and the onshore oil and gas royalty rate is much less than what is charged by western states for development on state lands. H.R. 3225 would modernize the fiscal policies of oil and gas leasing and production on federal lands to ensure all Americans receive fair market value for the development occurring on lands we all own.
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Climate and Conservation Program Manager.