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Promoting Energy Independence

February 8, 2017
by Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04)

Over the past two weeks – utilizing the Congressional Review Act – the House of Representatives voted on a collection of bills that would undo overbearing rules imposed by the Obama Administration. These bills range from a disapproving of new overreaches impacting how educators manage their classrooms to a rule that would fundamentally change federal land management practices.

One bill voted on last week would undo a regulation imposed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that would require companies make costly adjustments to gas and oil production in order to reduce methane waste, a nearly non-existent problem outside the authority of the Bureau.

In July 2016, I joined with more than 50 of my House colleagues in opposing the rule by sending a letter to the former Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell. In the letter, we highlighted concerns that the BLM rushed the rule through and was “a solution in search of a problem.” Additionally, the rule fails “to address BLM’s ongoing permitting delays for natural gas gathering line rights-of-way. The letter goes onto note the best way to capture methane emissions from a well site is through “construction of natural gas gathering lines and pipelines.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, methane emissions from natural gas systems within the United States are lower today than they were a decade ago.  Moreover, the federal government has also reported that the recent increase in global methane emissions is primarily from natural, biogenic sources. Preventing the extraction of petroleum from federal lands will drive up prices and hurt consumers, but have minimal impact on worldwide methane emissions.

Simply put, the BLM has done the bidding of environmental extremists looking to limit oil and natural gas production. Since 2010, production of natural gas on federal lands is down 18 percent compared to an increase of 55 percent on state and private land during the same period, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS). Furthermore, CRS reports federal revenues from drilling activities dropped by about $400 million from 2010 to 2015. If federal production had increased at the same rate as overall production during the same period, billions of dollars in revenue could have been collected. That money could be used to rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure or implement important conservation programs.

By voting to remove this rule, we are taking a stand against the executive branch rewriting the law. The BLM maintained it had the authority to impose this rule through of the Mineral Leasing Act, but this law does not give BLM the authority to regulate methane emissions.

This is just one of eight votes the House took during the last two weeks to kill burdensome regulations, and restore the authority granted to Congress in Article I of the Constitution. For too long, we have ceded that authority to executive branch agencies. The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to remove draconian executive rules that hurt, rather than help, the American people.