Rep. Scott Tipton’s bill to increase energy production on federal lands advanced in Congress on Wednesday after a debate that fell along familiar partisan lines.
The Cortez Republican’s bill, the Planning for American Energy Act, would require the secretary of the Interior to write plans every four years for ways to increase energy from federal lands to meet the country’s energy demands.
“For far too long, we’ve talked about an all-of-the-above energy strategy for this country. This legislation literally calls for that at a time when we need to be able to establish American energy on American soil to put Americans back to work and create American energy security,” Tipton said at a hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources.
But Democrats derided Tipton’s bill as just another effort to put natural-gas and oil companies first in line to use public lands, ahead of hunters, backpackers and others.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said gas and oil companies already have 6,700 leases on federal public lands that they are not using because they are waiting for energy prices to increase.
“If we want to incentivize production on existing leases on 20 million acres of federal land, we should modify the holding fees. The longer you hold something, the higher the rent,” DeFazio said.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, said Congress has been stuck for a long time in the same “use it or lose it” argument for leases on public lands.
Lamborn contended that a bigger impediment is lawsuits about new drilling projects.
However, Democrats pointed out that domestic energy production has risen since President Barack Obama took office.
The committee passed Tipton’s bill on a 27-14 vote, setting it up for a vote of the full House.
Tipton sponsored a similar bill last year, which passed the House but not the Senate. Even if it passes the House this year, it is likely to face a tough time in the Democratic-controlled Senate, given the opposition it got from Democrats on Wednesday.
The panel also passed several other public-lands bills, including one by Lamborn to expedite oil-shale production in western Colorado.