The Majority Staff of the House Committee on Natural Resources last week began circulating a proposal for major changes in the Department of the Interior’s administration of uses of Federal lands and ocean areas for renewable energy projects, oil and gas production, and uranium mining. The legislative text is here. A summary is here.
Styled primarily as a response to a series of royalty collection and leasing-related scandals and controversies in the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service and Bureau of Land Management, the proposed legislation also reflects an aggressive assertion of jurisdiction over Federal energy policy by the Committee, particularly with respect to renewable and non-renewable energy development in marine areas. The proposal envisions development of a comprehensive marine spatial planning program that would, among other things, determine where ocean wind, wave, and tidal projects should be sited and under what conditions, as well as offshore oil and gas development. The measure would also institute a comprehensive planning process for renewable and non-renewable energy on Federal onshore lands. The proposal includes new authority for Federal leases for wind and solar projects, and uranium mining. The proposal has not been introduced as legislation yet. Once introduced, it likely will be handled as a major component of comprehensive energy and climate legislation being assembled by the House. Observers of inter-committee jurisdictional struggles will note with interest the overlap between the Committee staff draft provisions on marine planning and Section 181 of the Energy and Commerce Committee bill approved two weeks ago.