It’s DÉJÀ vu all over again – Oil-backed politicians hold conference call to push new handouts to oil companies

The House Majority leadership has declared it will bring a package of  “oil-above-all” bills to a vote next week. They’re calling the bills the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act (DEJA). We’re calling it the DÉJÀ VU bills, because it’s simply more of the same: Oil-sponsored politicians are trying to create new government handouts to their oil industry campaign contributors.

Today, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Natural Resources Chair Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) are getting on a blogger conference call at 11:30 AM EST to talk about the DÉJÀ VU bills. If you’re going to be on that call, we hope you’ll ask them a few questions, since we weren’t invited.

“It’s déjà vu all over again,” said Checks and Balances Co-Director Matt Garrington. “Chairman Hastings, Rep. Gardner and other oil-soaked politicians are trying to disguise new land giveaways to oil companies as job bills. If energy development on more land will create more jobs, why aren’t they trying to force oil company CEOs to use the 20-million acres that are leased to them and laying idle? It’s because oil company CEOs fill their reelection campaign accounts, and these congressmen are singing for their supper.”

  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy has taken $359,300 in oil and gas industry contributions.
  • Rep. Doc Hastings has taken $241,804 in oil and gas industry contributions.
  • Rep. Cory Gardner has taken $304,724 in oil and gas contributions.

*All amounts according to the Center for Responsive Politics (www.opensecrets.org)

Here are some facts about the DÉJÀ VU bills that McCarthy, Hastings and Gardner are probably hoping you overlooked:

Rep. Cory Gardner’s bill (H.R. 4480)

  • Attempts to increase the amount of land available to oil companies in a blatantly political fashion. The Gardner bill mandates that every time President Obama draws oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), that the BLM would have to lease an equal percentage of public lands to oil and gas companies. This throws any market-based approach to supply and demand on our public lands out the window. Rep. Gardner fails to call the oil companies to account for the tens of millions of acres currently leased and thousands of permits issued but not yet developed.

Rep. Doug Lamborn’s bill (H.R. 4383)

  • Assesses “a $5,000 documentation fee” on anyone from “the public” who wishes to formally object to a leasing or drilling decision. These decisions affect public lands that are owned by all Americans. In effect, the bill is the equivalent of someone telling you that it will cost you $5,000 just to object to drilling in your front yard.
  • Places limits on how judges are allowed to conduct judicial review. They would be forced to “presume” that initial decisions on leasing and drilling were “correct” and in most cases could only enjoin decisions for no more than sixty days.

Rep. Mike Coffman’s bill (H.R. 4382)

  • Puts the authority for deciding how much public land is available for drilling in the hands of the oil companies instead of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  Coffman’s bill does this by mandating that the BLM offer at least 25 percent of the area nominated for leasing by industry. In order to gain more land, oil companies simply would need to nominate more lands knowing that they’d be guaranteed at least a quarter of the total lands nominated. These are the same oil companies currently sitting on over 20 million acres of idle leases on public lands.
  • Rolls back the Salazar leasing reforms which provide a common sense approach to public lands management. This would prevent local government and other stakeholders from having a say up front in the leasing process and create more conflict on public lands. It would also remove common sense protections for air quality, water quality, and wildlife habitat by allowing oil companies to skirt scientific review prior to drilling. These reforms have been key in reducing conflict and creating more certainty for industry on how to proceed with a lease once it’s issued.

Rep. Scott Tipton’s bill (H.R. 4381)

  • Ignores the balanced land use approach that we’ve developed in Colorado, and instead mandates that energy development be the primary use of all public land. This leaves ranchers, outdoor recreation businesses, watershed protection, and hunting and fishing in the dust.
  • Disposes of the current “multiple-use” mandate under which most of the public lands are managed. Instead, the Secretary of the Interior would be mandated to “take all necessary actions” to reach an objective for energy development on public lands. That objective would be decided by Washington insiders and likely with undue oil industry input, instead of feedback from Coloradans.

We urge any bloggers on today’s conference call to question the congressmen on these points and see what they have to say. But if you get a little dizzy, don’t worry. You’re just feeling DÉJÀ VU.

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