House Bills Give Free Reign to the Oil and Gas Industry – Undermine Public Participation
by Sofia Plagakis, 11/21/2013
Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills that would give the oil and gas industry free reign over federal lands and hinder public participation in environmental decision-making. Both bills, however, face an uphill battle in the Senate and the Obama administration has already vowed to veto them.
Here is a quick summary of the two bills:
H.R. 1965, The Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act,sponsored by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), would direct federal public lands to be managed for the sole purpose of energy development. The bill would cancel recent onshore oil and gas leasing reforms by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and set such short deadlines for approving drilling permits that the BLM would not be able to fully consider public health and environmental concerns.
Additionally, the bill would hinder public participation in decision-making by penalizing the public for raising concerns about oil and gas projects on public lands that affect them. In fact, citizens would have to pay $5,000 just to appeal a drilling permit or protest a lease. This undermines the fundamental principles of democracy. The bill passed in a vote of 228-192.
The White House, in a statement, said the bill would “would undermine the Nation's energy security; roll back policies that support the continued growth of safe and responsible energy production in the United States; discourage environmental analysis and civic engagement” in federal decision making.
H.R 2728, Protecting States Right to Promote American Energy Security Act, introduced by Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), would prohibit any federal oversight of fracking on federal lands. Specifically, it would give states control over fracking on federal land, requiring BLM to defer to existing state regulations on hydraulic fracturing (commonly referred to as fracking) on federal lands. This is extremely problematic, as many state oversight laws on fracking are weak and fail to protect public health and safety, as we found in our 2012 report. The bill passed in a vote of 235-187.
The two bills indicate a disappointing capitulation to industry recommendations and would greatly reduce the public's ability to protect our resources and communities. The oil and gas industry should not be getting a free pass to contaminate our public health and safety.