On November 20, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1965 (“Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act”) by a vote of 228 to 192. H.R. 1965 is primarily aimed at accelerating the oil and gas permitting process. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., who introduced H.R. 1965, touted the bill’s strict timeline for the Secretary of the Interior to act on permit requests under the Mineral Leasing Act, claiming that the bill would “reduce red tape and frivolous lawsuits.”
Under the bill’s provisions, the Secretary must make a decision on a permit application within 30 days. The Secretary may extend this period for up to two periods of 15 days each if the Secretary gives written notice of the delay to the applicant explaining the specific reasons for the delay. If the Secretary does not make a decision on the application by the end of the extended, 60-day period, the application is deemed approved, except in cases where reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 or the Endangered Species Act of 1973 are incomplete.
H.R. 1965 also requires the Secretary to conduct sales of new leases in areas “considered to have the most potential for oil shale development, as determined by the Secretary, in areas nominated through public comment.” H.R. 1965 mandates that the Secretary shall hold no less than five separate sales of these new leases by January 1, 2016.
Echoing its reaction to H.R. 2728 (“Protecting States’ Rights and Preventing Federal Red Tape on American Energy Act”), which the House also passed yesterday, the White House issued a veto threat as the House debated the bill, stating that H.R. 1965 would “undermine the Nation’s energy security; roll back policies that support the continued growth of safe and responsible energy production in the United States; discourage environmental analysis and civic engagement in Federal decision-making…and undermine public resource management plans that strike a balance between energy development and resource protection.”
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