Resources Chairman Bishop discusses panel priorities, plans for climate, drilling action

As the Obama administration takes action on drilling, fracking and Arctic exploration, how will the 114th Congress shape its policy priorities on natural resources? During today's OnPoint, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, discusses his panel's policy objectives for this session and explains how he plans to frame the conversation on climate change in his committee. Bishop reacts to the Obama administration's action on federal land oil and gas drilling, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge protections, and fracking regulations.


Monica Trauzzi: Hello and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. With me today is Congressman Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. Chairman Bishop, thank you for joining me.

Rob Bishop: Thank you for having me.

Monica Trauzzi: Mr. Chairman, you recently took the gavel on the Natural Resources Committee after years of leadership under former Chairman Doc Hastings. What are the biggest changes we can expect to see from your committee with you as the leader?

Rob Bishop: Probably not really a whole heck of a lot. We are very similar I think in our philosophy. Doc did a great job of breaking down the paradigms of the past and allowing people to try and think things anew. So he gave a great foundation, what I want to do is build on that foundation. The most important thing is to realize the solutions of the past don't work.

The precedents that have been established in the past are not solving our problems. I want to do things differently. And that's the key element that I want this committee to be known for, is that we looked for solutions, that we were willing to go out of the proverbial box -- or any other cliché you want -- to try and find a different approach to a problem and we're going to present those type of different approaches.

So I hope people will think this committee is creative and that we're always coming up with different types of ideas. That's our goal.

Monica Trauzzi: And last month the committee voted unanimously to include climate change on its agenda over the next two years. How do you plan to frame the climate conversation on your panel?

Rob Bishop: Well, actually we started that discussion in my subcommittee last year. If the issue is dealing with carbon in the air and there is climate change all the time and I wish there was more global warming right now. Because it's really cold here -- I want it warmer in some way. But if the issue is on carbon, carbon sequestration is something that can easily be accomplished within the purview of my committee.

So if you were dealing with wanting to suck the carbon out of the air, a healthy forest and forest management plan with increased grazing and improvements in the way you manage the grazing can actually take most of our carbon emissions and carbon problems out and put it sequestered into the land itself. We have a perfect way of doing that.

And if you have a program that doesn't burn up all our forests, you're not putting a whole lot of carbon back into the atmosphere. So more than a cap-and-tax approach can do, proper land management, especially on federal lands in the west, can solve a whole lot of the problems people are concerned about. And so that's one of the reasons that I'm more than happy to go into that discussion because using federal lands and managing federal lands in a better way can help solve our problems.

Monica Trauzzi: But something like the Clean Power Plan is still needed to regulate emissions from current power plants.

Rob Bishop: You do a proper land management and you can suck up almost all the emissions coming in there and sequester it again. And that's what people don't realize how significant what we're trying to deal with in talking about sequestration in public lands, what a significant role it can play. It can actually solve most of the problem and then you don't have to have dramatic changes in other areas.

That's one of the things I want to explore.

Monica Trauzzi: How will the committee address the human impacts on climate change?

Rob Bishop: I don't know to be honest with you. We'll cross that bridge when we actually come to it -- or any other cliché I'm throwing at you right now. I apologize for that. We'll be looking at that, but what we're actually going to be looking at is how actual policies within the purview of our committee can actually help solve the problem and doing it in a way that's creative, and so far no one has really looked at this into great detail.

And it's about time we did. We have a great solution here. I'm going to be pushing that solution.

Monica Trauzzi: And is there consensus among your members -- the Republican members -- on the committee that climate change is caused by human activity?

Rob Bishop: I don't even know how to answer that because I haven't polled them. That really isn't the significant issue here. What causes it is insignificant to the fact that we have a solution and that proper land management can be the solution. That unfortunately is what this administration and others have failed to look at. This is a potential solution here. That's what we're going to be emphasizing, that's what we're going to be thinking differently and more creatively, and that's where I think we can have a great impact on the entire country far outside of just the realm of what people have traditionally thought the Resource Committee would handle.

Monica Trauzzi: Last week the president proposed rules to regulate oil and gas exploration in the Arctic. Are these fair, necessary measures to ensure drilling safety?

Rob Bishop: No, no and no. It's a horrible approach. Alaska feels they have been abused, and they have been. And one of the things that once again our committee has illustrated time after time is that if you actually want to look for solutions to some of our management problems and stewardship problems and stewardship issues, you look to the states, the counties and the tribal governments.

They are doing a far better job. And that's what this administration refused to do in not taking into account what's happening in Alaska, what Alaskans want to have happen and they're trying to superimpose an issue on top of them that's not going to work in Alaska, it's not going to solve a problem and it doesn't work anywhere else where that's attempted.

Monica Trauzzi: But they have been working with industry on these rules.

Rob Bishop: However you want to twist an arm, you can twist an arm. The issue is there is a better way of doing it. And those are the things that we're going to bring to the forefront. And what this administration has proposed so far to me lacks any kind of creativity. If I look at the budget they just proposed, there's nothing creative in that. It's the same old let's raise more taxes and spend money and throw it at it. There are a lot of things we could be doing to look at practices that are being used by counties and used by states.

And we could superimpose those and find greater solutions. And I'm sorry, this administration doesn't seem to be desiring that. That's what my committee is going to step in the void and try and solve that. We will be providing the solutions that are different.

Monica Trauzzi: So the Obama administration also recently took a major step on expanding oil and gas drilling on federal lands by proposing to open waters along the Atlantic. The administration has received heat from Republicans for not being aggressive enough on expanding drilling on federal land. We've not seen an expansion like this in decades. So how significant is this and how significant is the step by the administration?

Rob Bishop: I am grateful they finally did something. That's a plus. Calling it major expansion, I would not do that because it's a very timid approach, and when you see what they're willing to do offshore coupled with what they're willing to pull back in Alaska, that does not give me a great deal of hope. Now look, the United States has become a player in the energy world. We have surpassed the Russians and Saudi Arabians in what we've been able to produce in oil and gas. But it's all come in private and state lands. If the United States is going to really become a leader in energy development and actually be a value to our allies and not be pushed around by OPEC anymore, if we're actually going to have the jobs that can be created by affordable energy, if we're going to do that you have to start the advancement of resources on federal lands as well.

Monica Trauzzi: And is this a step in that direction?

Rob Bishop: That's a very, very small step. And what they're doing on offshore, they're not doing on land. And that's the problem. They may say they're offering leases, but they're not. The leases that are being offered are minimal. They are the kinds of leases that will not attract the companies that want to develop them, and they are guaranteed to have a lawsuit attached to it.

That's not the way you actually develop economic resources. They're not doing that, and those are the kinds of things we're going to be pushing back and saying, "There is a better alternative. We have a better way." We will present that.

Monica Trauzzi: And the proposed wilderness protections for ANWR -- how do you expect your committee will address those?

Rob Bishop: With the skepticism they deserve. There are ways of doing things -- it's not an either/or proposition. That's the problem with this administration -- everything is either/or. You can have conservation, you can have wilderness and at the same time guaranteeing economic opportunity and guaranteeing outdoor recreation. But those guarantees have never happened with these programs, and they're not happening with these proposals either.

That's what has to be there. There is a better way of doing it. This administration is not presenting the best possible approach. And if they're not going to, I think our committee needs to start looking at that and saying, "Yeah, we have a better approach to this."

Monica Trauzzi: Interior Secretary Sally Jewel has signaled that final federal land fracking regulations will be released soon. How close to the 2013 draft do you expect the final to be? What role should states be playing?

Rob Bishop: Well once again, I hope it's nowhere near the original draft because that draft was horrible. My fear is it will be too close to that to be effective. And what the federal government needs to realize is that there is no real necessity for moving in there. The states have been working this issue for years. They have been doing it successfully for years.

The federal government has to realize that every energy area has different needs and requirements, which is one of the reasons why the states are far more effective than they are. And the other thing they have to realize is even going after the fracking is there is a misdirection here. It's a sleight of hand. Ms. Jewel has a background -- a better background than other secretary of Interiors that we've had in the past.

She understands this industry and she has repeatedly justified in our committee, it's not the fracking rules or the fracking elements that's going to be a problem. It's the well construction. If you have proper well construction, it doesn't matter what kind of fracking regulations you have. It will be contained. And anyone who is going after fracking and just totally ignoring the well construction approach doesn't understand this issue. And that's why I'm fearful of these regulations will be.

It's a misdirection. You're going after A when you should be looking at B because B is the real issue. She understands that. I don't know what kind of pressure she is under or what kind of pressure the agency is under to actually push something out there. I'm fearful of what it would be because it will I think be a misdirection. And once again, the states have a proven record of experience in these areas. They understand their local areas.

We need to be taking the best practices they have and be emphasizing that, not coming up with a new set of one-size-fits-all regulations, which I'm very fearful is what they will propose.

Monica Trauzzi: What are the biggest opportunities for bipartisanship and working with Democrats that you see on your committee this year?

Rob Bishop: Well, the first thing is at least with the new ranking member, I really like him. He's a good person. I think we get along on a personal level. And that makes a big difference as you're trying to go forward. What we will do is it's not necessarily the constructs of how you actually come up with it, but if we can agree on a common goal then I think we can start throwing out ideas of how to get there and that will promote bipartisanship. If not, I'm still going to throw out solutions.

And we'll see how successful those solutions are. If we have good ideas -- and I think we will have good ideas -- they will be accepted, hopefully.

Monica Trauzzi: All right, Chairman, we'll end it there. Thank you for coming on the show. Nice to see you.

Rob Bishop: OK, appreciate the opportunity.

Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

[End of Audio]



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