This Bill Eases ‘Recovered’ Species Off Endangered List

It will be easier to take wildlife off the endangered and threatened lists if Congress passes a bill introduced by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz.

“The Endangered Species Act has been used as a sword instead of a shield,” Biggs told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.

His bill would streamline the process of removing a species from the endangered list if the nation’s secretary of the interior “receives an objective, measurable, and scientific study demonstrating a species has recovered,” the Arizona Republican said in a press release.

Enacted in 1973, the Endangered Species Act provides a “framework to conserve and protect endangered and threatened species and their habitats,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Biggs’ bill is one of several measures introduced last week by House Republicans aimed at updating the Endangered Species Act.

His legislation includes provisions addressing the issue of a species being “wrongfully listed,” as well as penalizing those who “intentionally submit false or fraudulent data in order to cause a species listing.”

The bill would also provide a way for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to “promptly take action when a species is wrongfully listed, rather than letting the problem linger in federal bureaucracy,” according to the press release.

“This will allow us to focus resources to protect species that actually need it,” Biggs said in a written statement.

The Fish and Wildlife Service currently lists 1,459 species of wildlife considered at risk of extinction in the United States, from the red wolf to the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle to the Northern sea otter. Classifications include endangered, threatened, and experimental populations.

Biggs so far has 23 co-sponsors, predominantly from Midwestern states. No Democrat has signed on as yet.

The Trump administration has begun to push related reforms through the Interior Department. The Western Governors Association, meeting last month, advanced its own version of bipartisan reforms. Wyoming Gov. Matthew Mead, a Republican, has been a leader in the effort.

Biggs told The Daily Signal that some environmental groups want to take control of private property and economic activity in the name of defending a species, and that such groups “don’t want to delist species that have come back.”

Some colleagues on the other side of the aisle have given the “usual diatribe” about proposed reforms, Biggs said, arguing that he and other Republicans are “out for the big bucks and don’t care about animals.”

But Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., has co-sponsored certain measures in the package of bills.

Other Democrats “don’t want to give in on environmental issues at all,” Biggs said.

Kevin Mooney contributed to this report.

Report by Jeremiah Poff. Originally published at The Daily Signal.

More Power to the States Will Enhance US Energy Dominance

In the midst of a growing global economy, the world’s demand for energy is booming.

In 2017, global demand for energy grew by 2.1 percent, more than double the previous year’s rate. Oil, gas, and coal accounted for about 80 percent of global energy consumption with oil alone accounting for 32 percent of global consumption.

Producers in the United States have stepped up to meet that demand. The U.S. has been the world’s leading natural gas producer for nearly a decade. Domestic oil and gas production has increased 60 percent since 2008.

Despite America’s energy dominance and the economic benefits that accompany it, an abundance of natural resource potential in the U.S. remains untapped.

Why? A key reason is the federal government owns and manages those resources. Federal regulations and federal land ownership have rendered vast quantities of recoverable oil and natural gas onshore and offshore either inaccessible or costlier to extract.

The current leasing and permitting process has frustrated people of all political beliefs. On average, the federal processing of an application for permit to drill in the last year of the Obama administration was 257 days, while state processing has typically been 30 days or fewer.

While the Interior Department is working tirelessly to reduce permitting delays, this massive time disparity prevents market forces from working effectively. When prospective drillers have to wait many months to get approval, the prospect of drilling in a timely manner can often be implausible.

Even though many federal proposals are approved, fluctuations in the price of oil combined with a long waiting period create the type of uncertainty that often prevent prospective drillers from even attempting the process. Authorizing states to manage onshore and offshore resource production for a greater percentage of the revenue than the current system will create a new and better system that permits industry to better respond to changing market conditions.

Last week, the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to discuss enhancing state management of natural resources on federal lands and waters. Draft legislation introduced by the committee would empower states to have more control over the leasing, permitting, and regulations of oil and gas production.

It would also authorize a state to approve or disapprove of each lease sale offered in federal waters if the area is within the state’s administrative boundaries. The amount of royalty revenue a state would collect would depend on how many lease blocks a state approved.

State control, local governance, and private-sector participation would result in more accountable, effective management. While the federal government can simply shift the costs of mismanagement to federal taxpayers, states have powerful incentives for better management of resources on federal lands. State governments can be more accountable to the people who will directly benefit from wise management decisions or suffer from poor ones.

Opponents of the proposed legislation said this bill would give oil and gas priority over other economic interests a state may have. For instance, coastal states have stated concerns that offshore drilling would possibly hurt their tourism and fishing industries.

But states like Louisiana have proven you can have your oil and seafood, too. In 2014, the Louisiana oil industry generated $44 billion for the state economy and another $36 billion when including related infrastructure and refining activity.

In addition to energy production, seafood and tourism industries stand out as significant contributors to Louisiana’s economy. Louisiana represents 30 percent of the commercial fishing for the continental United States and are substantial producers of shrimp, oysters, crawfish, and crabs. Annually, the industry creates $2.4 billion in economic growth for Louisiana.

These industries work hand-in-hand for the economic benefit of the state.

Opponents of the draft legislation have also held inconsistent views on the principles of federalism. The proposed legislation would empower states with a choice that, under the current system, they simply do not have.

Under current law, the Department of Interior could easily make choices for all states and allow for energy exploration in federal waters, regardless of whether those states want it or not. The proposed legislation would at the very least give states a say in the decision.

As Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee Rob Bishop, R-Utah, pointed out during the hearing, Democrats seem to only want federalism in certain cases. The same Democrats who now want federalism in the case of coastal states did not want federalism in the recently reversed case of the Bears Ears Monument issue in Utah. They’ve opposed empowering states to oversee natural resource production and other land use decisions on federal lands.

Bishop noted the hypocrisy of the Democrats specifically by contrasting their rejection of the wishes of local citizens in the Utah case with their support of the wishes of citizens who opposed drilling on federal waters. Federalism seems to have been lost to the Democrats and their current stance is, at best, inconsistent.

A Washington-centric approach to management stifles creative, collaborative solutions to competing interests that could be resolved at local, state, or regional levels without the added baggage of national political battles and federal regulatory processes. While states and local communities may not always make perfect decisions, the best environmental policies are site-specific and situation-specific and emanate from liberty.

The Natural Resources Committee should be commended for introducing draft legislation that would improve the current process by engaging the appropriate stakeholders and better aligning incentives for economic development and environmental protection.

Commentary by Nicolas Loris and Bryan Cosby. Originally published at The Daily Signal.

Bishop Statement on Sage Grouse

Department of the Interior has announced plans to reverse the former administration’s 10 million acre mineral withdrawal across six western states, overhaul the de facto Sage Grouse listing and improve management of the species through greater state input. Chairman Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement:

These withdrawals were never about Sage Grouse conservation. It was all a ploy to assert more federal power, ignore actual data and best science, and diminish the influence and authority of states. States have proven to be more than capable of managing wildlife and conservation within their borders and will continue to be the best advocate for the species.  

“Secretary Zinke is developing a better policy through input from states and people on the ground with local knowledge and expertise.”

BLM third quarter oil and gas lease sales hit combined $170.7 million

In keeping with the Administration’s goals of promoting America’s energy dominance, seven Bureau of Land Management state offices generated $170.7 million in bonus bids during their quarterly oil and gas lease sales. Among these sales, rights to a total of 218 parcels, covering 134,834.71 acres were sold.

“Oil and gas lease sales on federal land directly support domestic energy production and President Trump’s energy dominance goals for America,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “These sales provide critical revenue and job growth in rural America. We will continue to work to cut the red tape and improve processes to ensure regulations serve their intended purpose.”

“These successful lease sales reflect our sound energy policy, which draws from the vast, untapped energy reserves right here in America,” said acting BLM Director Michael D. Nedd.

BLM New Mexico had the largest sale of the quarter, generating approximately $130.9 million in bonus bids on Sept. 7. Wyoming held the second-largest sale of the quarter on Sept. 21, generating $38.7 million in bonus bids.

BLM Colorado’s sale, held on Sept. 7, totaled $602,088 in bonus bids. In BLM Montana/Dakotas, bonus bids totaled $305,802 in a sale held Sept. 12. Sales that same day in Nevada and Utah brought in $33,120 and $8,204, respectively. In Eastern States, bonus bids totaled $201,018 in lease sales held on Sept. 21.

The Sept. 7 sale in New Mexico is also the largest federal onshore sale so far this year, followed by an earlier sale in Wyoming, in February, which generated nearly $129 million in bonus bids. 

“The Secretary’s strategy for energy dominance is working and will continue to bear fruit,” said Counselor to the Secretary for Energy Policy Vincent DeVito. “This pace is a reflection of our responsible energy policy and administrative changes that are making Interior a better place to do business.”

“This is a strong step towards restoring trust and partnership with our local communities who rely on our responsible energy leasing as a source of job growth and revenue to the states to fund schools, fire and police services, roads and bridges and other municipal needs,” said Katharine MacGregor, Acting Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals. “Energy development on public lands is a win-win for our nation’s energy future as well as economic growth in rural America.”

Fifty percent of the revenue from lease sales goes to the state where the oil and gas activity is occurring, while the rest goes to the U.S. Treasury. If producing wells are produced on the lease parcel, the royalties paid on the Federal minerals are also shared with the state.

This year’s pace of lease sales has exceeded that of calendar year 2016 in terms of number of sales held and bonus bids. 

For example, with this quarter’s sales, the BLM has held 20 of the scheduled 29 onshore oil and gas lease sales this year around the nation. Those sales combined have brought in $316.2 million in bonus bids. This contrasts with all of 2016, during which time the BLM held 20 onshore oil and gas lease sales and generated $192.5 million in bonus bids.

A bonus bid is a one-time payment in exchange for exclusive access to explore a parcel and grants an exclusive lease for a set period of time. The BLM awards oil and gas leases for a term of 10 years and as long thereafter as there is production of oil and gas in paying quantities. 

The BLM’s all-of-the-above approach to energy development includes oil and gas, coal, strategic minerals and renewable sources, such as wind, solar, and geothermal, which can all be developed on public lands.

The BLM’s policy is to promote oil and gas development if it meets the guidelines and regulations set forth by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and other subsequent laws and policies passed by the U.S. Congress. The sales are also in line with the Trump administration’s America First Energy Plan, which includes development of fossil fuels and coal, as well as renewable energy.

In fiscal year 2016, oil and gas development on BLM-managed lands supported 201,000 jobs nationwide and contributed more than $42 billion in output to the U.S. economy.

For more information about BLM oil and gas lease sales, please visit https://www.blm.gov/programs/energy-and-minerals/oil-and-gas/leasing.