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article imageUS House passes bill charging $5,000 to file complaint against drilling

By Justin King     Nov 23, 2013 in Environment
House Resolution 1965, known as the Federal Land Jobs and Energy Security Act, passed the House on Wednesday. The bill contains a benefits package for oil companies seeking to lease land from the federal government.
Many of the provisions have come under fire for stifling free speech and being detrimental to the environment. The bill was sponsored by Representative Lamborn of Colorado and co-sponsored by Duncan of South Carolina and Cramer of North Dakota, all Republicans. The oil and gas industry was the number one campaign contributor to both of the co-sponsors. The industry was second in donations to the sponsor, trailing just behind defense aerospace, Representative Lamborn.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) introduced an amendment to clarify the bill’s impact on the First Amendment, but it was defeated. The portion of the bill in question requires a $5,000 fee to be paid for a citizen to lodge a formal protest against actions occurring on publicly owned lands.
Key Elements of the bill include:
• A stipulation that if the Department of the Interior has not made a decision on an application within 60 days of receipt, the application will be considered approved.
• Requires the Secretary of the Interior to collect a $5,000 documentation fee to accompany each protest for a lease, right of way, or application for permit to drill.
• Requires a percentage of fees collected by the Bureau of Land Management to remain in the offices where they were collected to be used for “permit approval activities.”
• Requires a “Federal Permit Streamlining Project” in every Land Management office that permits energy projects on federal land.
• States that the Secretary shall not require a finding of extraordinary circumstances related to a categorical exclusion in administering the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPA 2005) with respect to review under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA).
(A "categorical exclusion" under NEPA is a category of actions which do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment and which have been found to have no such effect in procedures adopted by a federal agency in implementing environmental regulations and for which, therefore, neither an environmental assessment nor an environmental impact statement is required.)
• Forces the Secretary of the Interior to offer at least 25% of the annual nominated acreage not previously made available for lease.
• Shields such acreage from protest and the test of extraordinary circumstances, but makes it eligible for certain categorical exclusions under EPA 2005 and NEPA.
• Limits the Secretary’s methods for denying permits
• Prohibits additional lease stipulations (except certain emergency stipulations) after the parcel is sold without consultation and agreement of the lessee.
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