Policy Update Mar 23, 2023

Position on H.R. 1, the Lower Energy Costs Act

NPCA submitted the following position to members of the House of Representatives ahead of an expected floor vote the week of March 27, 2023.

NPCA asks members to vote no on H.R. 1, the Lower Energy Costs Act, during floor consideration the week of March 27, 2023. NPCA, along with more than 80 percent of Americans, believes that the U.S. must conserve and restore more lands and waters. This bill does the opposite by effectively making extraction the dominant use of public lands and all but ending the long-standing policy of “multiple-use”.

While H.R. 1 has many issues, NPCA is specifically concerned with these in Division B (TAPP American Resources Act):

Division B, Title I – This title would force the federal government to lease large swaths of public lands and waters for oil and gas development with little regard to the effects on climate change, national parks and communities. This ends the decades-long precedent of deferring to the president and secretary of the Interior on determining when and where to hold lease sales. It also requires the federal government to lease more public lands for coal mining while fast tracking the leasing and permitting process at the expense of environmental reviews and community input. We believe the future of energy development must include renewable energy; this title would hamper the federal government’s effort to transition to clean energy including wind and solar.

Division B, Title II – This title includes the BUILDER Act which undercuts critical components of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and, if enacted, would directly harm the ability of the National Park Service (NPS) to comply with its Organic Act of 1916. It imposes arbitrary timelines on the environmental review process, limits the freedom of the public to engage with a federal project and could lead to conflicts of interest. NPCA believes that climate change is one of the biggest threats facing parks today. Title II would make it much harder for NPS to plan for, and mitigate potential downstream impacts of, infrastructure projects on federal land. These considerations – currently enshrined in NEPA – are a crucial tool that allows NPS to plan for a changing climate and consider cost-saving alternatives for a designated project.

Division B, Title III – This title would exacerbate the issues with the current claim system by validating mining claims under the Mining Law of 1872 before the claimant has proven a mineral discovery. Currently, mining rights fully vest only after valuable minerals are discovered. Under this title a claimant would no longer need to prove they discovered valuable minerals. Instead, any person could “claim” mining rights on unwithdrawn public lands merely by grounding a stake, paying a fee, and filing paperwork. While mining is not permitted within national parks, mining activities pollute the air and water that crosses park boundaries. NPCA does not oppose additional mining for minerals critical to the clean energy transition and we acknowledge that growing demand for certain materials may require new hardrock mines, including some on federal public lands. However, this bill would not meaningfully address the underlying issues with mine permitting and would exacerbate current conditions for more hardrock mines to pollute the watersheds of our national parks.

Division B, Title IV – This title modifies the way a president may withdraw or conserve public lands from fossil fuel and mineral extraction. It also requires the administration to survey for additional mineral and fuel deposits on lands already protected through administrative withdrawal or Antiquities Act designation. This is a needless exercise that would only serve to threaten places that have been protected for their important natural and cultural resources.

Additionally, this title forces the federal government to prioritize oil and gas development and coal and mineral mining on federal lands over all other uses—threatening conservation and recreation including hiking, hunting and fishing. This title essentially ends the long-standing policy of “multiple-use” on Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands.

Division B, Title V – This title rescinds the commonsense changes to the oil and gas leasing program that NPCA supported in the Inflation Reduction Act, including updated royalty rates and the end to non-competitive leasing. By lowering royalty rates, this title would take money from conservation funding programs and leave it in the hands of oil and gas companies. By reinstating non-competitive leasing, federal land could be given away for oil and gas development for up to half as much as it would sell for at auction.

Division B, Title VI – This title makes drastic changes to the revenue sharing structure from energy production on federal lands and waters and would take funding away from multiple conservation programs, including the National Parks and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund created by the Great American Outdoors Act, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Historic Preservation Fund. This title also abolishes administrative fees that help the Department of the Interior facilitate its leasing programs, effectively defunding the department’s ability to manage its leasing program which Titles I and III of this bill seek to grow exponentially.

H.R. 1 does not increase America’s energy independence, security or diversification in a meaningful way – which should be done by increasing the use of renewable energy. It does, however, accelerate drilling and mining at the expense of natural, cultural and sacred spaces as well as exacerbate the consequences of climate change. NPCA opposes this bill and urges members to vote against it.

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