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ICYMI: Stepping Up to the Plate: A New Paradigm for American Energy

By U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop

The Hill

Getting things done in Washington is no easy task. It requires skill, a degree of salesmanship, negotiation and some good old-fashioned luck. Above all, it requires patience.

I’m an avid Chicago Cubs fan, and it’s no secret that the Cubs suffered a torturous 71-year absence from playing in the World Series, one of the worst droughts in sports history. One of my favorite quotes comes from Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks, who knew a thing or two about patience. “People ask me a lot about the values I got from playing for the Cubs for so many years,” he said. “The value I got out of it was patience. A lot of people these days are not very patient.”

Banks was on to something. The word “patience” is derived from the Latin term pati, which means “to suffer.” Western states in our country can certainly relate to Banks. They have learned patience by suffering federal landlords’ inability to properly manage the natural resources found within their borders.

America is blessed with an abundance of natural resources. From the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and from the shale of Utah to the shale of Ohio, our country has the potential for robust energy development from coast to coast.

Some areas are already achieving their full potential. Across the board, state and private lands with these resources have helped accomplish the president’s goal of achieving American energy independence. These lands are why in March of this year, our nation was producing nearly 10.5 million barrels of oil per day.

This production is fantastic for the states and landowners who are fortunate enough to control their own policy decisions regarding the extraction of oil and natural gas. However, for many states – including my own – natural resource policy is dictated by bureaucrats in D.C. and held hostage by coastal environmentalist groups who seek only to “keep-it-in-the-ground” through constant litigation.

Thus, the reality of American energy abundance is bifurcated between those states with federal land, and those without. Unfortunately, this reality is costing the American taxpayer deeply.

This disparity and the suffering it creates needs to stop. To President Trump’s credit, his administration is doing all it can to reverse the anti-development trends of the Obama era. But administrative actions can only go so far, and it is up to Congress to ensure that lasting change occurs for the future of our federal lands.

The Natural Resources Committee recently held a legislative hearing on an innovative leasing concept that empowers states to steer land management policies according to the wishes of their citizens. This new paradigm offers coastal states the opportunity to take a greater role in the development of federal offshore waters. To begin the process, the Department of the Interior would determine the value of the potential resources found up to 200 miles off the coasts – providing our nation and states with the knowledge of the vast offshore natural resources we can develop.

With that knowledge, states will be empowered to make intelligent decisions about allowing or prohibiting offshore development in federal waters. These decisions will be accompanied with financial benefits or costs to the state – depending on whether a state allows leasing, which will provide a coastal state access to revenue sharing, or prohibits leasing, which will cost a monetary sum to ensure the American taxpayer is being reimbursed for the revenues that would otherwise be realized by developing those resources.

This fresh approach offers a new leasing paradigm that will reduce the ignorance and occasional tension between coastal and western states. If adopted, it would maintain the environmental standards that operators are currently subject to, remove bureaucratic hurdles proliferating permitting delays, all while streamlining the multi-phased approvals that are unnecessarily duplicative.

The intention of this plan is to give states that want to develop their resources the ability to do so while simultaneously providing states that don’t want to develop resources the ability to say no. While this approach is new, it strikes the right balance between reflecting the will of the people of the state but also incentivizes the responsible development of America’s vast and abundant natural resources.

We want our patience to pay off. Ernie Banks tragically passed away before he could see his beloved Cubs win the World Series. But we have an opportunity to implement real reform that levels the regulatory playing field, brings sanity to how the federal government manages our land and taps into abundant, American energy that will benefit the entire country.