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May 5th, 2021
Chair Grijalva: After Today’s Markup, The Democratic Path Forward on Conservation is Clear – Environmental Justice and Taxpayer Fairness are Key

Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said after the conclusion of today’s markup – which finished a process that began on April 28 – that the Democratic legislative strategy on national conservation policy is now clearly focused on environmental justice, taxpayer fairness and climate protection. The Committee advanced a series of bills that increase taxpayer return for the private use of public resources, protect marginalized communities from exploitation, and reduce wasteful incentives for fossil fuel extraction – three strategies that Grijalva said will form the bedrock of Democratic legislative plans going forward.

The Committee advanced two bills at the April 28 markup:

  • H.R. 1884 (Rep. Grijalva), To repeal section 3003 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, and for other purposes. Save Oak Flat Act.
  • H.R. 1492 (Rep. DeGette), To prevent methane waste and pollution from oil and gas operations, and for other purposes. Methane Waste Prevention Act of 2021.

Today the Committee completed the markup by advancing seven other bills:

  • H.R. 443 (Rep. Young), To convey land in Anchorage, Alaska, to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, and for other purposes. Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Land Transfer Act.
  • H.R. 1029 (Rep. Steube), To Waive the application fee for any special use permit for veterans’ special events at war memorials on land administered by the National Park Service in the District of Columbia and its environs, and for other purposes.  Free Veterans from Fees Act.
  • H.R. 1503 (Rep. Levin), To amend the Mineral Leasing Act to make certain adjustments in leasing on Federal lands for oil and gas drilling, and for other purposes. Restoring Community Input and Public Protections in Oil and Gas Leasing Act of 2021.
  • H.R. 1505 (Rep. Lowenthal), To amend the Mineral Leasing Act to make certain adjustments to the regulation of surface-disturbing activities and to protect taxpayers from unduly bearing the reclamation costs of oil and gas development, and for other purposes. Bonding Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act of 2021. 
  • H.R. 1506 (Rep. Lowenthal), To provide for the accurate reporting of fossil fuel extraction and emissions by entities with leases on public land, and for other purposes. Transparency in Energy Production Act of 2021.
  • H.R. 1517 (Rep. Porter), To amend the Mineral Leasing Act to make certain adjustments to the fiscal terms for fossil fuel development and to make other reforms to improve returns to taxpayers for the development of Federal energy resources, and for other purposes. Ending Taxpayer Welfare for Oil and Gas Companies Act of 2021.
  • H.R. 2348 (Rep. Stewart), To maximize land management efficiencies, promote land conservation, generate education funding, and for other purposes. Advancing Conservation and Education Act.

Grijalva’s Save Oak Flat Act has been a priority of his for years, and the issue – a proposed copper mine near land sacred to several tribes in central Arizona – has become the focal point of a national campaign to protect the Oak Flat area of Tonto National Forest on environmental justice and religious freedom grounds. In March, The Today Show ran a segment questioning claims by Resolution Copper, the company proposing the project, that it can develop the mine responsibly.

The combination of bills from Reps. Lowenthal, Levin and Porter represent a united effort to return political and economic power to the American people where fossil fuel development is concerned

  • H.R. 1503 ends non-competitive leasing of public lands to fossil fuel companies and speculators, who can currently lease federal land for as little as $1.50 an acre and sit on it for a decade without taking further action, and mandates a reasonable level of stakeholder input on fossil fuel projects;
  • H.R. 1505 strengthens assurances that oil and gas companies will be financially responsible for cleaning up their own wells, instead of taxpayers footing the bill;
  • H.R. 1506 requires companies to disclose the detailed amount of fossil fuel produced and methane emitted from each well on public lands, plus other information, and to publish the data at a newly created Department of the Interior database;
  • H.R. 1517 raises onshore oil and gas royalty rates on federal lands for the first time since the passage of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, updates the amount paid for rentals and minimum bids, and requires that each rate is readjusted to keep up with inflation.

“The politics of American energy development are headed away from corporate handouts and toward public empowerment and environmental justice, and a lot of people need to update their assumptions about what’s coming next,” Grijalva said today. “The good old days of shoveling taxpayer money to Big Oil and then sticking us with the cleanup bill are over. You’re seeing the new template in action now: returning power to the public and to tribes, restoring balance to the financial structure, and prioritizing clean energy over more dead-end fossil fuel development.”

The Committee expects to announce its next markup in the coming weeks.

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