House Committee on Natural Resources passes CLEAR Act (HR 3534)
Deepwater Horizon disaster excuse for feds to enact more legislation on offshore/onshore oil and gas industry
by Representative Cynthia Lummis media release
July 15, 2010
WASHINGTON D.C. – During a Full Committee markup of the CLEAR Act (HR, 3534), Rep. Cynthia Lummis (WY) offered an amendment to strike all items in the bill related to onshore oil and gas development (Title II, Subtitle B). Democrats defeated this amendment in a 20 to 28 vote. Click here to view the roll call.
House Democrats are attempting to use the tragedy of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to pass unrelated items that have absolutely nothing to do with offshore drilling or the tragic oil spill in the Gulf.
"Congress should be focusing on how to help the Gulf Coast and improve the safety of our offshore oil and gas development. Unfortunately, this section on onshore energy development is the manifestation of Rahm Emanuel’s comment that you should never let a crisis go to waste," said Rep. Lummis. "None of the 31 pages in this section have anything to do with offshore drilling, the oil spill, or its clean-up. Instead, it is 31 pages of hastily thrown together provisions that are job-killers for Western States."
In addition to being completely unrelated to the disaster in the Gulf, the Western Energy Alliance, a coalition of onshore oil and gas producers said the onshore provisions in H.R. 3534 will "make leasing more expensive, increase uncertainty, increase centralized Government control over market mechanisms, and create a new, redundant layer of bureaucracy." (http://westernenergyalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/Western-Energy-Alliance-IPAMS-Position-Paper-H.R.-3534-CLEAR-Act-2010.pdf)
While the Obama Administration shuts down deepwater drilling, this is exactly the wrong time for Congress to be simultaneously slowing down onshore energy production.
House Panel Approves Comprehensive Energy Bill
July 15, 2010
Contact: Blake Androff, 202-226-9019
Washington, D.C. - Capping a decade of investigations and dozens of oversight hearings held on the beleaguered Minerals Management Service, the House Natural Resources Committee today approved landmark comprehensive legislation authored by Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-WV) to address the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and to implement reforms of America's federal offshore and onshore oil and gas leasing program.
"While the incident in the Gulf does not signal the end of drilling off America's coasts, it certainly is a game changer and is proof positive that broad reforms are needed to ensure that oil and gas development on federal lands and waters is done efficiently while protecting human safety and the environment," said Rahall. "The problems we have identified and addressed in this legislation are not merely the result of one incident, but rather are the product of more than a decade of investigations, hearings, and prior legislative efforts into the pressing need to improve the management of America's public energy resources."
The "Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources (CLEAR) Act" (H.R. 3534), approved today by a vote of 27 to 21, was introduced by Rahall on September 8, 2009. As introduced, the bill would make several important changes to current law in an effort to create greater efficiencies, transparency, and accountability in the development of energy resources on federal lands and in the Outer Continental Shelf. In light of the enormous sea change caused by the Deepwater Horizon incident, the updated version of the bill approved by the Committee today includes significant and wide-ranging reforms to ensure that oil and gas development on federal lands and waters is done efficiently while protecting human safety and the environment.
"It's unfortunate, but as I have said on multiple occasions, every mine safety law we have on the books was penned in the blood of coal miners. It often takes a tragic incident such as the one at the Massey mine or the one in the Gulf of Mexico, both in April, before these lapses in safety laws come to light and are properly addressed," said Rahall. "Whether it is a coal miner in West Virginia or an oil rig worker in the Gulf of Mexico, I firmly believe that no one should have to risk their life to secure their livelihood."
The legislation would abolish for good the scandal-ridden Minerals Management Service and divide it into three separate entities: The Bureau of Energy and Resource Management (BERM), to manage leasing & permitting and conduct necessary environmental studies; The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), to conduct all inspections and investigations related to health, safety and environmental regulations; and The Office of Natural Resource Revenue (ONRR), to collect all offshore and onshore oil and gas and renewable energy-related revenues.
Responding to a recently released Department of the Interior Inspector General investigation that raised serious concerns about the "ease with which [safety inspectors] move between industry and government," the CLEAR Act contains a strong "revolving door" provision that would broaden the scope of prohibited activities and add a 2-year ban on accepting employment with certain companies. The provision would also add new recusal requirements and provide stricter penalties for violations.
"We need professional, highly-trained inspectors who aren't just pushing paper and rubberstamping what the industry tells them but rather are out there asking the tough questions and are truly holding these oil companies accountable," said Rahall. "Too often we find MMS is playing around with - instead of keeping an eye on - the oil operators they are supposed to be regulating. I know a few bad apples tend to taint the bunch, but the Deepwater Horizon is a perfect example of how there is very little room for error when it comes to the safety of these oil rigs."
The CLEAR Act would also provide mandatory full funding, beginning in 2011, for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF), and the Oceans Resources Conservation and Assistance Fund (ORCA).
As the Committee with primary jurisdiction over offshore drilling, the House Natural Resources Committee has led congressional efforts to vigorously investigate the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the broader context of what it means for future energy development both offshore and onshore. In addition to dozens of oversight hearings held on MMS since becoming Chairman in 2007, Rahall has led the Committee in holding six oversight hearings on the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.
A section-by-section summary of the legislation is available on the Committee's Web site. http://resourcescommittee.house.gov/images/Documents/clear%20act%20-%20section-by-section%20-%20july%2012%202010.pdf
Editor’s Note: Included in the bill is Sec. 207. Disposition of Revenues. "This section would amend Section 9 of the OCSLA to provide for yearly mandatory funding of $900 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, $150 million for the Historic Preservation Fund, and 10% of total offshore revenues for a new Ocean Resources Conservation and Assistance (ORCA) Fund, as created by Section 605 of this Act."