Congressional Briefs: New Bills to Develop Federal Land Resources

Activity kicked up in Washington in the past week, where members of the House of Representatives introduced a number of energy bills and passed a key amendment that could give states—not the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—control over coal ash regulation.

Bill to Develop Energy Resources on Federal Land

Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) introduced the “Planning for American Energy Act” (H.R. 4381), which seeks to use federal lands to meet the nation’s energy needs. Specifically, the bill would require the Department of the Interior (DOI) to develop a strategic plan every four years on how to develop onshore energy resources such as oil, natural gas, coal, wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal, oil shale, and minerals on federal lands.

“It’s great to talk about the need for an all-of-the-above energy strategy in this country, but in order to make it a reality and turn words into action, there needs to be a plan,” said Tipton. “The Planning for American Energy Act puts a common sense plan into place by requiring that our nation’s energy needs are met through development of traditional and alternative energy resources with a true all-of-the-above approach that will lower the cost of energy, jumpstart economic recovery, and get Americans working.”

Bill to Develop Nation’s Rare Earth Minerals

Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) introduced the “National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2012” (H.R. 4402), which seeks to develop the nation’s strategic and critical minerals such as rare earth elements by coordinating the actions of federal agencies. Rare earth minerals are used in solar panels and wind turbines, but the U.S. is almost wholly reliant on foreign countries such as China for certain minerals.

The bill will require the DOI and Department of Agriculture to more efficiently develop domestic sources of strategic and critical minerals and mineral materials. It also seeks to establish a timely permitting process for mineral exploration and mine development projects by clearly defining the responsibilities of a lead agency. Currently, it can take up to 15 years for agencies to issue permits to allow mineral mining work to begin. The bill will limit the total review process for issuing permits to 30 months unless signatories to the permitting timeline agree to an extension.

“In the 2012 ranking of countries for mining investment, the United States ranked last, tied with Papua New Guinea, in permitting delays," said Rep. Amodei said. "Duplicative regulations, bureaucratic inefficiency, and lack of coordination between federal agencies are threatening the economic recovery of my home state and jeopardizing our national security. Nevada, which is rich in strategic and critical minerals, also has the highest unemployment rate in the nation. Decade-long permitting delays are standing in the way of high-paying jobs and revenue for local communities. This bill would streamline the permitting process to leverage our nation’s vast mineral resources, while paying due respect to economic and environmental concerns.”

A subcommittee legislative hearing on this bill will be held on Thursday, April 26.

Preempting the EPA from Regulating Coal Ash

Also last week, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to Rep. John Mica’s (R-Fla.) sponsored “Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012” (H.R. 4348) that would effectively preempt the EPA from regulating coal ash.

Amendment No. 3, proposed by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.V.), inserts the text of the “Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act” (HR 2273), which would allow each state to regulate and enforce its own coal combustion residuals permit program and use the existing framework and requirements of federal regulatory programs. The EPA would have oversight of any deficiencies in state regulations.

H.R. 4348 now heads to the Senate for consideration. President Obama has threatened to veto this bill.

Sources: POWERnews, Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.), Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), Rep. David McKinley (R-W.V.)

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