Top House Republicans, including Rep. Liz Cheney, released their American Energy First Act on Sept. 11, a massive overhaul to federal lands energy policy seen by many as a response to the Democratic delegation’s recently proposed bans on offshore drilling.
Labeled as an “all-of-the-above” approach to American energy development, the legislation is largely a mashup of language contained in Republican-sponsored bills of the past and includes a number of provisions intended to expand the development of conventional and renewable energy resources on federally owned land, both on- and offshore.
According to a two-page digest of the bill, this will be accomplished by allowing states with approved regulatory programs in place to manage certain drilling operations on federal lands. At the same time, it would limit both the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of the Interior from “intruding” on energy development on state and private lands through methods like the one Natural Resources Committee Republicans characterized as “unnecessary permitting requirements and duplicative federal environmental reviews.”
These include offering certain exemptions under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, which requires projects on federal land to undergo an environmental review before proceeding.
The bill also includes provisions preventing the Department of the Interior from initiating moratoriums without congressional approval on new oil, gas or coal leases on federally controlled lands or waters.
“Costly government barriers and excessive permitting delays have impeded the efficient production of energy for too long,” Cheney said in a statement. “While Democrats are being driven by their radical base to outlaw forms of affordable energy that families rely on, I was pleased to work with Reps. Scalise and Bishop on this bill which will end unnecessary overreach from Washington bureaucrats, and enable states to manage energy production on lands within their borders.”
The legislation also includes a provision Cheney proposed in a separate bill this past winter to rebalance the apportionment of federal mineral royalties between state and federal governments to a 50-50 split — a change that, based on 2016 numbers, would result in a roughly $9.2 million increase to Wyoming’s budget.
Though the bill faces a long road in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, Republicans on the bill said the legislation will increase U.S. energy independence and spur economic development in energy-producing states, all while reducing the permitting burden for renewable energy sources like geothermal and offshore wind — an olive branch to House Democrats looking for a commitment to fight climate change.
It is unclear if or when the bill will be brought to the floor.