Sunday, July 29, 2018

Let the states manage resources on federal lands

Nicolas Loris

...Last week, the House Natural Resources Committee conducted a hearing on draft legislation that would do just that. The Enhancing State Management of Federal Lands and Waters Act would transfer to the states responsibilities for energy extraction on federal lands. States could have complete control of their energy programs and choose where to develop those resources. The bill would also offer states a greater share of the revenue collected from winning bids, rents and royalties. They could use this money to close deficits, fund coastal restoration and conservation, or invest in education. Lawmakers would do well to consider opening lease auctions to all interested parties. Currently, only energy companies can bid on tracts of land, and the federal government requires leaseholders to demonstrate the intent to develop the resources. Opening up the auction would invite more competition and help truly assess the value of the land and the resources beneath it. A more inclusive bidding process could also create more economic and environmental cooperation. For example, an environmental organization could pair up with a grazer to bid on a parcel of land. An energy company could coordinate with a conservationist group to use the land in ways that would benefit both parties. The Enhancing State Management of Federal Lands and Waters Act is still a work in progress. But the current version would accomplish two important objectives: delegating more authority to the states, and using financial incentives to inform states’ decisions. The current Washington-centric approach to resource management stifles creative, collaborative solutions to competing interests that could be resolved at local, state or regional levels. The House Natural Resources Committee should be commended for trying to inject the important principles of federalism into the energy policy discussion...MORE

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