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Geoscience Policy Monthly Review: May 2013

The Monthly Review is part of a continuing effort to improve communications about the role of geoscience in policy. Current and archived monthly reviews are available online.

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  • Open for public comment: Draft legislation on hydraulic fracturing

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released an updated draft proposal for rules regarding hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian lands. The updated proposal reflects public feedback on the initial proposal published in 2012.  This most recent draft includes new regulations on trade secret disclosure, and establishes new baselines for environmental safeguards and water quality monitoring mechanisms. Opponents of the legislation report that the new rules are superfluous and only duplicate the regulations already in place in states where hydraulic fracturing already occurs.

The BLM reported in 2012 that hydraulic fracturing was used in conjunction with approximately 90 percent of wells drilled on federal and Indian lands. Today, oil and gas recovered on federal and Indian lands accounts for 5 and 13 percent, respectively, of total U.S. consumption.

The draft proposal is open for public comment for 30 days, and will come to a close on June 10, 2013.    

  • Senators call for increased U.S. oil production

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) introduced legislation this May proposing increased U.S. oil production in order to enact full sanctions on Iranian oil imports. Proponents of the bill hope to attenuate Iran’s economy, which collects approximately 70 percent of its revenue through oil exports, and to cripple its controversial nuclear program. Inhofe’s bill, the Iran Sanctions Implementation Act of 2013, calls for the U.S. to produce 1.25 million more barrels of oil per day to displace oil imports from Iran and ease potential disruptions in global markets. Inhofe’s bill would accomplish this by requiring the President to declare enough federal lands as “Iranian Oil Replacement Zones,” thereby freeing them of federal restrictions under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, and turning regulation directly over to the states.

Inhofe’s bill comes as a group of bipartisan senators released Senate Resolution 65, which calls for the full implementation of U.S. sanctions on Iran.

  • House advances Keystone XL bill

On May 22, 2013 the House voted 241-175 to approve H.R. 3: The Northern Route Approval Act, which seeks to approve the construction, operation, and maintenance of the Keystone XL Pipeline. If enacted, the bill would allow for the construction of the pipeline without a presidential permit, and would greatly streamline other permitting processes normally required by the Secretary of Interior and the Army. The bill still needs to be approved by the full Senate and the President before it can be enacted into law. Signs from the White House indicated that President Obama would likely veto the bill because of the language exempting the pipeline from a presidential permit.  

  • House Natural Resources Committee Considers Energy Legislation

Representatives introduced four energy bills in May 2013: the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska (NPR-A) Access Act (H.R. 1964); the Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act (H.R. 1965); the Planning for American Energy Act of 2013 (H.R. 1394); and the BLM Live Internet Auctions Act (H.R. 555). On May 22, 2013, the House Committee on Natural Resources held a hearing to discuss the proposed bills.

H.R. 1964, introduced by Doc Hastings (R-WA), aims to open the NPR-A to competitive oil and gas leasing by requiring the Department of the Interior (DOI) to approve at minimum one lease sale per year from 2013 to 2023. The bill would also create timelines for approval of oil and gas transport infrastructure, such as pipelines and roads, to service the NPR-A as well as overturn DOI’s February 2013 plan to broaden wildlife and subsistence hunting protections in the NPR-A.

H.R. 1965, introduced by Doug Lamborn (R-CO), seeks to bolster onshore energy leases. The bill would mandate review of drilling permits within 60 days; apply wind and solar rights of way revenue to permitting; require issuance of leases within 60 days of payment; and protect leases from being withdrawn or altered following sale. The bill directs DOI to conduct a minimum of five lease sales, each of 25,000 acres or more, by 2016. Additionally, protests, such as those from environmental groups, would be required to pay a fee of $5,000.

Bills similar to H.R. 1964 and H.R. 1965 passed the House during the 112th Congress, but failed in the Senate.

H.R. 1394, introduced by Scott Tipton (R-CO), would require DOI to outline “goals for an all-of-the-above energy production plan strategy on a 4-year basis” for onshore federal lands.

H.R. 555, introduced by Bill Johnson (R-OH), proposes conducting onshore oil and gas lease sales through a live internet auction.





Monthly Review prepared by: Abby Seadler, Geoscience Policy Associate, Kimberley Corwin, 2013 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern, and Brittany Huhmann, Clinton Koch, and John Kemper 2013 AGI/AIPG Summer Interns.

Sources: AccuWeather, The American Institute of Physics, BuildStrong Coalition, Bureau of Land Management, Coalition for National Science Funding, Department of Energy, Department of the Interior,  Environment and Energy Daily, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Register, GeoOptics, Government Accountability Office, Greenwire, The Hill Blog, House of Representatives, Keck Institute for Space Studies Asteroid Retrieval Mission Study, Lunar and Planetary Institute, MIT Energy Initiative, National Academies Press, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, Science Magazine, Thomas, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Government Printing Office, U.S. Senate, the White House


This monthly review goes out to members of the AGI Geoscience Policy Committee, the leadership of AGI's member societies, and others as part of a continuing effort to improve communications about the role of geoscience in policy. More information on these topics can be found on the Geoscience Policy Current Issues pages. For additional information on specific policy issues, please visit the web site or contact us at or (703) 379-2480, ext. 228.


Compiled May 31, 2013


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