“Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.”
— George Santayana, Life of Reason, Reason in Common Sense
Over the course of the 112th Congress, we stood witness to an approach to public land use that has swung spectacularly out of balance. Nowhere is this more evident than in the actions of the House Natural Resources Committee (HNRC). So as the curtain rises on the 113th Congress, we wanted to take a moment to remember the past two years, lest the nation be condemned to repeat them.
Any lip service paid by the HNRC’s leadership to a balanced energy approach has been thoroughly disproven by their actions. Rather than take a smart approach that creates the most energy while protecting our water, communities and resources for future generations, Hastings and his team spent the 112th falling over themselves to continue billions in taxpayer-funded handouts to oil and gas companies.
Under the leadership of Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and his lieutenants, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) and Rep. Robert Bishop (R-Utah), HNRC focused on promoting the long-failed oil shale experiment. Their oil shale swindle would have given two million acres of public land to oil companies for oil shale speculation, while providing bargain basement royalty rates.
The bill (H.R. 3408), sponsored by Rep. Lamborn, would have provided no energy and no revenue to Americans – just millions in taxpayers handouts to the oil and gas industry.
House Speaker John Boehner named Lamborn’s bill a funding source for his highway bill, but an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the bill would generate zero revenue.
The extremism of the HNRC didn’t stop there. The committee also failed to address or even investigate the causes of the Deep Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, or to consider policies needed to prevent a further spill – despite the billions in damages BP caused. To the contrary, HNRC voted multiple times to lift the temporary safety moratorium that was installed following the Gulf of Mexico spill.
The majority on the HNRC also fought tirelessly to secure more of our public lands – forests, canyons, waterways – for oil and gas drilling. Hastings and his peers ignored facts like record-level production, decreased nominations by oil companies and that new deposits like the Bakken Field and Eagle Ford are located on privately owned land.
Instead, they continually complained that oil and gas companies, which reaped some $136 billion in profits in 2011, and collected billions in taxpayer-funded handouts, were being mistreated.
The HNRC also failed to protect any new public lands as wilderness. This makes the 112th the first Congress since 1966 to not do so.
In the new Congress, Rep. Hastings remains HNRC chairman. Rep. Lamborn remains chair of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, and Rep. Bishop will remain chairman of the re-named subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation. This means there is no reason to believe the balance of land use will correct itself.
Let’s hope that the American people remember the past, and let these politicians know they don’t want it repeated.