Congress aims to clear up federal role in the future of energy development
Defenders of Wildlife supports CLEAR Act
- House Natural Resource Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) leads effort to reform federal oversight of oil and gas development
- CLEAR Act helps ensure wildlife is not an afterthought in onshore energy development
- CLEAR Act signals forward progress on renewable energy development
- CLEAR Act to set $900 million aside for land and water conservation through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)
A bill by Chairman Nick Rahall to reform the lax oil and gas drilling practices that allowed millions of gallons of oil to spew into the Gulf of Mexico was approved today by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Natural Resource Committee.
The measure (H.R. 3534), also known as the CLEAR Act, puts real reform on track for Congress to pass a law this year to clean up the federal agencies responsible for regulating on- and off-shore drilling.
“The Gulf oil disaster painfully highlights that drilling in our oceans and on land is a dirty, risky business and that federal oversight to better protect wildlife needs strengthening,” said Robert Dewey, Defenders of Wildlife’s vice president of government relations. “It’s encouraging to see Congressman Rahall’s leadership on the challenging and crucial task of changing the way our nation does business with oil and gas companies. We need clear guidance, sound science and strong oversight of energy development across the country to ensure the safety of our lands, waters, wildlife and economy in future energy development.”
CLEAR works to assure that wildlife is more than an afterthought to offshore and onshore energy development activities. The Wildlife Sustainability section, championed by Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), for example, would ensure that energy production and other forms of development on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands are undertaken in a responsible manner, consistent with their current multiple use management direction.
CLEAR also signals that Congress is ready to promote responsible renewable energy development, pressing the U.S. Department of the Interior to untangle its renewable energy leasing operation, which has yet to approve a “fast-track” renewable energy project. The measure directs the Interior Department to establish a competitive leasing program that will ensure a fair return to taxpayers for the commercial use of public lands. An amendment by Congressman Raul Grijalva will also provide a financial incentive to locate projects of previously disturbed lands, brownfields and other “recycled” sites.
“The disaster in the Gulf clearly shows that we need more clean, renewable energy,” said Jim Lyons, Defenders’ senior director for renewable energy and former Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Congressman Rahall has started us off in the right direction. But for renewable energy to be successful, it’s got be done smart from the start – that means giving top priority to projects sited on degraded lands, while also steering future projects away from important wildlife habitat and wild lands. Renewable projects can minimize their environmental impacts, be developed more quickly and with greater certainty, and help accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.”
The CLEAR Act fully funds the $900 million per year for land acquisition and other purposes that Congress has long promised but seldom provided. Established in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) authorizes a portion of receipts from offshore oil and gas leases to be placed in a fund for state and local conservation and habitat restoration. Unfortunately, the LWCF has been chronically under-funded, receiving full funding only once since its inception 45 years ago. Year after year, LWCF proceeds are raided for other pet projects.
Contact(s):Caitlin Leutwiler, (202) 772-3226
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org.