Natural Resources Committee Republicans Still Attacking Public Lands, Needlessly Doing Industry Favors

Washington, D.C. – Ahead of today’s Natural Resources Committee markup of more than 20 bills, Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) pointed to several problematic Republican proposals that run the gamut from weakening public lands protections to slashing royalties for the soda ash industry. An explanation of the shortcomings of each bill is available below.

H.R. 218 – Building a Road Through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

Offered by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), the bill is the latest move in a decades-long Republican attempt to build a road through Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge to the settlement of King Cove. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has found multiple times, most recently in a 2013 environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act, that the costs of building the road and swapping associated Refuge land for state and private property heavily outweigh any potential benefits.

H.R. 1399: Soda Ash Industry Giveaway

Offered by Rep. Paul Cook (R-Calif.), the bill reduces the royalty on soda ash, which is mined only in Wyoming and California, from the current 6 percent to just 2 percent, a move the Congressional Budget Office says will cost approximately $80 million in lost royalties to taxpayers over five years. In 2011, after a similar five-year royalty cut begun in 2006 expired, the Interior Department reported to Congress that the reduction actually cost approximately $150 million in royalties and did not significantly contribute to new jobs or increased exports. Soda ash exports grew 13 percent under the lower royalty rate and 18 percent in fiscal years 2012 and 2013, which saw the return of the previous 6 percent royalty rate. The industry consists of four mining companies in Wyoming and one in California.

H.R. 2936: Clear-Cutting Forests

Offered by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), the bill undermines core provisions of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) intended to ensure forest conservation; expands the use of categorical exclusions under NEPA to allow clear cutting in certain forests without any sort of environmental assessment or review; and limits or prohibits judicial review of certain activities.  It is a timber industry wish list dressed up as legislation that will not improve forest health.

H.R. 2939: Water Giveaways

Offered by Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.), the bill prohibits the federal government from exercising federal reserved water rights to protect public lands and Indian water rights. The bill’s provisions undermine long-standing authorities of both the Departments of Interior and Agriculture to establish reasonable conditions on private interests in order to protect tribal and natural resources. 

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