Cramer: Legislation to Reduce Red Tape for Ranchers, Expand Energy Production Approved in Committee
Washington, D.C. – Today two pieces of legislation cosponsored by Congressman Kevin Cramer were approved in a markup hearing of the House Committee on Natural Resources. The Grazing Improvement Act grants greater economic certainty to ranchers in western North Dakota by extending the longevity of grazing permits on federal lands and decreasing the wait period for permit renewals. The Offshore Energy and Jobs Act requires the Obama Administration to revise its policies on offshore oil and natural gas development which currently keep 85% of potential energy sites off-limits.
Reducing red tape for ranchers
The Grazing Improvement Act extends grazing permits with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service from 10 years to 20 years, giving greater business certainty to ranchers who pay a fee to graze their livestock on federal lands, and dealing directly with mounting backlogs of associated renewal paperwork at these federal agencies. More than 22,000 ranchers hold federal grazing permits on approximately 250 million acres of land in the United States. In North Dakota, more than 1.1 million acres of federal grassland are either open to, or currently including in a grazing permit.
“Hundreds of North Dakota ranchers pay a fee for their animals to graze in areas including the Little Missouri and Sheyenne National Grasslands. Many of them have been excellent stewards of this public land for decades, only to face the possibility of delays in permit renewals, or losing their use of the land altogether. We can do better for them, and for our nation’s food supply,” Cramer said.
The National Energy Policy Act (NEPA) requires an environmental analysis to be included as part of all grazing permit renewals. The bill would allow ranchers to continue their current grazing operations in cases where a permit expires due to paperwork backlogs and delays in the necessary environmental studies.
Expanding offshore energy production
In July 2012, President Obama released a new five-year Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil and gas leasing program which blocks energy development on 85% of all offshore areas. The Offshore Energy and Jobs Act would require the Obama Administration to submit a new lease plan which includes at least 50 percent of areas containing the greatest known energy reserves.
The bill also streamlines oversight of the leasing program at the U.S. Department of the Interior by reorganizing agencies into duty-specific categories, and enhances safety by requiring federal employees who conduct inspections to have at least three years of experience in the oil and natural gas industry, and a degree in an appropriate field.
“With North Dakota leading the way in demonstrating the United States can achieve energy security in the near-term, the time is now for President Obama to unlock these offshore areas for energy exploration,” Cramer said.