House debates Strategic Petroleum Reserve bill

Jan 27, 2023

The House of Representatives debated H.R. 21, a bill that would limit drawdowns from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve until the Department of Energy develops a plan to lease more national public lands to oil and gas companies, late into the night Thursday. Despite GOP rhetoric that the bill would increase oil and gas production and lower gas prices, the bill text does not incentivize or otherwise plan for more oil production.

“The underlying bill we’re considering today makes clear that some in this chamber want to see our public lands, lands owned by all Americans, opened to extensive oil and gas extraction,” said New Jersey Democrat Frank Pallone. “This despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans, including more than two-thirds of Western voters, consistently say they would rather see these lands protected than opened to new degradation.”

According to the Bureau of Land Management, oil and gas companies have around 8,663 approved but unused permits to drill on public land and over 37,000 oil and gas leases covering 26.6 million acres. Of that land, 13.9 million acres, or 53 percent, were not producing oil and gas as of November 2021.

More than 140 amendments were submitted for the bill under a new rule put in place by the GOP House majority. The chamber debated these amendments late into the night on Thursday, accepting a few changes submitted by Republicans and rejecting those submitted by Democrats. The House is expected to vote on the bill Friday.

Biden protects Boundary Waters

Just one day after it reinstated protections for 9 million acres of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the Biden administration announced it’s protecting 225,000 acres of federal land in Minnesota near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The Boundary Waters is a vast preserve of lakes and woods that has been threatened for years by a proposed copper and nickel mine. The mineral withdrawal will establish a 20-year moratorium on mining upstream, likely killing plans by Twin Metals Minnesota LLC to mine in the region.

The Biden administration canceled Twin Metals’ minerals-rights leases in January 2022. The company is suing to reinstate those leases and will also likely appeal the 20-year moratorium.

New podcast episode on mining

Mining expert Ian Lange joins Kate and Aaron on The Landscape to talk about critical minerals and mining in the West. Lange directs the mineral and energy economics program at the Colorado School of Mines and is an expert in mining economics. They discuss what’s going on in the world of critical minerals—specifically those used in electric vehicle batteries—and whether or not we will see a big increase in domestic mining for them thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act.

Quick hits

Big winners from Biden’s climate law: Republicans who voted against it


The Trump rules still vexing Biden

E&E News

Opinion: Why we need new stories on climate

The Guardian

Biden protects Boundary Waters wilderness with mineral withdrawal

New York Times | Washington Post | The Hill | MPR News | CBS News | Duluth News Tribune

Lawmakers submit over 100 amendments to SPR bill

The Hill | USA Today | E&E News

Western Caucus seeks to advance energy, environment priorities

E&E News

Inside the West’s water crisis: A journey across the Colorado River Basin

Los Angeles Times

Republicans say land conservation is a plot to “control” and “kill” people


Quote of the day

”The Department of the Interior takes seriously our obligations to steward public lands and waters on behalf of all Americans. Protecting a place like Boundary Waters is key to supporting the health of the watershed and its surrounding wildlife, upholding our Tribal trust and treaty responsibilities, and boosting the local recreation economy… With an eye toward protecting this special place for future generations, I have made this decision using the best-available science and extensive public input.”

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on the 20-year Boundary Waters mineral withdrawal

Picture this

green and purple lights swirling in night sky

Located an hour’s drive from Fairbanks, Alaska, the one-million-acre White Mountains National Recreation Area offers stunning scenery, peaceful solitude, outstanding winter recreation and the thrill of the aurora borealis crowning the night sky. Photo by Bob Wick

(featured image: Rep. Frank Pallone speaking on the House floor Jan. 27, 2023. Credit: C-SPAN)