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ICYMI: E&E News: House passes NDAA with major parks, development package


WASHINGTON, D.C., December 5, 2014 - House passes NDAA with major parks, development package
Phil Taylor
E&E News
December 4, 2014

The House today voted 300-119 to pass the fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill, including what would be the biggest package of public lands, wilderness, parks and energy bills in nearly six years.

The defense bill would designate nearly 250,000 acres of wilderness in five Western states, protect roughly 70 miles of rivers and establish or expand more than a dozen national parks. It would also expedite oil and gas and grazing permits on public lands and convey more than 100,000 acres of public lands for economic development including mineral production, logging, infrastructure and community developments.

"This agreement represents a balanced approach to public lands management," said House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) on the chamber floor this morning. "It'll create thousands of new jobs and support energy and mineral production, transfer land out of federal ownership, and protect treasured lands through the establishment of several locally supported parks and wilderness areas."

Conservation groups cheered the bill's advance, even as other green groups remained deeply troubled over certain logging, mining and grazing provisions they said negate the bill's positives.

A handful of conservation groups today warned the bill would guarantee an Endangered Species Act listing for the greater sage grouse (see related story).

Voting "nay" were 32 Republicans and 87 Democrats. They included Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), top Democrats on Natural Resources, though neither articulated to what extent the public lands package influenced his vote.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) voted in favor despite having grave concerns with one provision in the lands package to convey Arizona public lands to a copper mining company, which he argued could offend American Indian tribes.

"We're in a difficult moment near the end of a session and have must-pass legislation," Cole said on the floor, noting that he thought the bulk of NDAA is good and bipartisan. "Like anything in a half-a-trillion-dollar bill, I can quibble with this or that. But the reality is, I favor the legislation."

The bill's passage drew applause from Trout Unlimited and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

"Passage of these conservation bills is a hopeful sign that Congress can work across party lines and find common ground," said Mike Matz, Pew's director of U.S. public lands. "Members have clearly heard from their constituents that they expect lawmakers to join together to get things done for the country. The largely bipartisan wilderness legislation was crafted with the help and support of local communities, and it reflects democracy at its best."

The American Petroleum Institute also lauded the House vote, citing a bipartisan provision in the bill to extend and expand a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas permit streamlining program.

"A more efficient permitting process is crucial to America's all-of-the-above energy strategy," said API's Director of Upstream and Industry Operations Erik Milito. "This legislation will help to address well-documented regulatory delays that have held up energy production on federal lands and slowed the growth of jobs."

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Contact: Committee Press Office 202-226-9019

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