Jane Van Ryan
Posted September 17, 2009
The Committee on Natural Resources in the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing today on a proposal called the Consolidated Land, Energy and Aquatic Resources Act of 2009. While it's often referred to as an energy bill, it's actually an Un-Energy bill.
If passed, this bill would consolidate the leasing functions of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) into a single office at the Interior Department. At present, the MMS manages the leasing of offshore land for energy development, and the BLM manages a similar process for onshore leasing.
Combining the two agencies would not present a problem if it would improve the efficiency of oil and natural gas development. But this bill would add another layer of bureaucracy and could jeopardize the development of domestic energy.
Here's how the Outer Continental Shelf Five-Year Leasing Plan process has worked for the past 30 years. The MMS holds three separate public comment periods on areas that are identified for possible leasing, produces two separate draft proposals, develops an environmental impact statement, and then produces a final leasing plan. After the Secretary of the Interior approves a final plan, there is a lengthy public comment period for each lease sale as well as consultation with stakeholders and additional environmental analysis. This thorough process gives everyone who's interested an opportunity to voice an opinion and gives the Secretary plenty of economic, social and environmental information so he or she can make a sound decision on whether to implement the final plan.
(Learn more by exploring our interactive leasing timeline.)
Unfortunately, the Un-Energy Bill would create new regional planning councils consisting of independent decision-makers who could stop federal leasing plans if they decide an area isn't suitable for oil and natural gas leasing. In other words, depending on the makeup of these councils, America's energy resources could be put under moratoria for many years to come.
The United States needs more energy, not less. It makes no sense to hand over control of America's energy security to regional councils when the federal government has the responsibility for managing the development of energy resources for the economy and consumers.
The nation would be better served by developing policies that encourage energy development and allowing all Americans to benefit from this country's abundant natural resources.
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