Barrasso: Congress Must Fix the Broken Leasing and Permitting Process on Federal Land

July 26, 2023

“We should pursue changes in law that will benefit all energy sources and projects, not just those favored by President Biden,” said ranking member Barrasso.

Click here to watch ranking member Barrasso’s remarks.


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), delivered the following remarks at a full committee hearing to examine opportunities for Congress to reform the process for permitting electric transmission lines, pipelines, and energy production on federal lands.


The hearing featured testimony from Mr. Antonio P. Smyth, Executive Vice President of Grid Solutions and Government Affairs at American Electric Power; Mr. Jason M. Stanek, Former Chairman of the Maryland Public Service Commission; and Mr. Chad A. Teply, Senior Vice President of Transmission & Gulf of Mexico for Williams in the first witness panel.


In the second witness panel, ENR was joined by Mr. Erik G. Milito, President of the National Ocean Industries Association; Mr. Pete Obermueller, President of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming; and Ms. Kelly Speakes-Backman, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs for Invenergy.


For more information on witness testimony click here.


Senator Barrasso’s remarks: 

“Thanks so much, Mr. Chairman.


“Thank you for holding today’s hearing.


“And I’m so grateful that we continue to pursue meaningful, bipartisan permitting reform in this committee.


“Last month, Congress passed legislation to address spending and the debt ceiling.


“That legislation included important steps to expedite the review process under NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act. It also authorized the Mountain Valley Pipeline.


“While the legislation was helpful, Congress’ work is far from over.


“Congress still needs to fix the broken leasing and permitting process for oil, natural gas, and coal production on federal land.


“And we need to ensure that the Mountain Valley Pipeline is not the last major interstate natural gas pipeline ever to be built in America.

“Under federal law, the Secretary of the Interior is required, required by law, to hold quarterly lease sales in each state with federal oil and gas resources.


“Since President Biden took office, the Secretary of the Interior has held only two lease sales in these states. That is two lease sales in ten quarters.


“That means when it comes to leasing, the Secretary of the Interior is violating the law 80 percent of the time. It’s a complete disgrace.


“Oil and gas production on federal lands employs tens of thousands of people in Wyoming and throughout the West.


“In Wyoming, it pays for K-12 public education and other essential services. It is central to the economics and the economies of rural communities.


“By failing to hold robust lease sales each quarter, Secretary Haaland is setting our states up for failure in the future.


“That includes her home state of New Mexico, which is among the poorest states in the nation.


“The Secretary’s decision is having a similar impact on coastal communities.


“Under current law, Secretary Haaland was required to finalize a five-year offshore oil and gas leasing plan by June 30, 2022. We are now beyond that date of 2023.


“Instead, she issued a draft plan, which included the option of ending all offshore oil and gas leasing altogether.


“Since then, this Secretary has dragged her feet on taking further actions. That almost certainly means that 2024 will be the first year without any offshore oil and gas lease sales in the United States since the mid-1960s.


“I do not support President Biden’s radical and economically disastrous efforts to electrify everything almost immediately.


“One thing that’s necessary is expanding transmission lines to improve the reliability of the electric grid. Such expansions will not happen without permitting.


“As I’ve told Chairman Manchin, I’m willing to discuss changes to laws addressing interstate electric transmission lines. But we must follow two principles.


“First, any changes to laws governing transmission must actually address electric reliability.


“The biggest threat to reliability is not the lack of transmission lines.


“It is the premature retirement of coal, natural gas, and nuclear power plants.


“That is what we heard at this committee, at that table, from experts including NERC, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation and FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.


“Second, any changes to laws governing transmission can’t be just another subsidy.


“Congress should not try to force electric customers in rural, inland states, such as Wyoming and West Virginia, to subsidize ill-conceived policies of coastal states, such as California and New Jersey.


“If California, New Jersey, or New York want to rely on offshore wind, then their customers should pay for it.


“I suggest that we pursue permitting changes that actually put steel in the ground.


“We should pursue changes in law that will benefit all energy sources and projects, not just those favored by President Biden.


“And we should pursue changes that help ensure these projects are not defeated in the courts.


“Mr. Chairman, I look forward to continuing to work with you, and the other members of this committee, on permitting reform.


“Together we can improve our nation’s economy, restore American energy dominance, and reduce the cost of energy for American families.


“Thank you Mr. Chairman.”