Text: H.R.7032 — 110th Congress (2007-2008)All Bill Information (Except Text)

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Introduced in House (09/24/2008)


110th CONGRESS
2d Session
H. R. 7032

To improve interagency coordination and cooperation in the processing of Federal permits for production of domestic oil and gas resources.


IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
September 24, 2008

Mr. Barton of Texas (for himself, Mr. Sullivan, Mr. Conaway, Mr. Hall of Texas, Mr. Terry, Mr. Sessions, Mr. McCaul of Texas, Mr. Culberson, and Mr. Upton) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources


A BILL

To improve interagency coordination and cooperation in the processing of Federal permits for production of domestic oil and gas resources.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. Purposes.

The purposes of this Act are to—

(1) respond to the Nation’s increased need for domestic energy resources;

(2) facilitate interagency coordination and cooperation in the processing of permits required to support oil and gas use authorization on Federal lands, both onshore and on the Outer Continental Shelf, in order to achieve greater consistency, certainty, and timeliness in permit processing requirements;

(3) promote process streamlining and increased interagency efficiency, including elimination of interagency duplication of effort;

(4) improve information sharing among agencies and understanding of respective agency roles and responsibilities;

(5) promote coordination with State agencies with expertise and responsibilities related to Federal oil and gas permitting decisions;

(6) promote responsible stewardship of Federal oil and gas resources;

(7) maintain high standards of safety and environmental protection; and

(8) enhance the benefits to Federal permitting already occurring as a result of a coordinated and timely interagency process for oil and gas permit review for certain Federal oil and gas leases.

SEC. 2. Federal Coordinator.

(a) Establishment.—There is established, as an independent agency in the Executive Branch, the Office of the Federal Oil and Gas Permit Coordinator.

(b) Federal permit coordinator.—The Office shall be headed by a Federal Permit Coordinator, who shall be appointed by the President within 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act.

(c) Duties.—The Federal Permit Coordinator shall be responsible for the following:

(1) Coordinating the timely completion of all permitting activities by Federal agencies, and State agencies to the maximum extent practicable, with respect to any oil and gas project under a Federal lease issued pursuant to the mineral leasing laws, either onshore or on the Outer Continental Shelf. For purposes of this Act only, such oil and gas projects shall include oil shale projects under Federal oil shale leases.

(2) Ensuring the compliance of Federal agencies, and State agencies to the extent they participate, with this Act.

SEC. 3. Regional Offices and Regional Permit Coordinators.

(a) Regional offices.—Within 90 days after the date of appointment of the Federal Permit Coordinator, the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary), in consultation with the Federal Permit Coordinator, shall establish regional offices to coordinate review of Federal permits for oil and gas projects on Federal lands onshore and on the Outer Continental Shelf.

(b) Number and location of regional offices.—The number of regional offices shall be established by the Secretary in consultation with the Federal Permit Coordinator. The Secretary shall ensure that there is an adequate number of offices in each region proximate to available Federal oil and gas lease tracts onshore and on the Outer Continental Shelf to meet the demands for expeditious permitting in that region. The Secretary shall designate as regional offices under this section all offices established under section 365 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (42 U.S.C. 15924).

(c) Memorandum of understanding.—Within 90 days after the appointment of the Federal Permit Coordinator, the Federal Permit Coordinator, the Secretary, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Secretary of Defense, and the head of any other Federal agency with responsibilities related to permitting of Federal oil and gas leases, shall enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) establishing respective duties and responsibilities for staffing the regional offices and accomplishing the objectives of this section.

(d) Designation of qualified staff.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 30 days after the date of signing of the MOU under subsection (c), all Federal signatory agencies shall assign to each regional office the appropriate employees with expertise in the oil and gas permitting issues relating to that office, including, but not limited, with respect to—

(A) consultation and preparation of biological opinions under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1536);

(B) permits under section 404 of Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1344);

(C) regulatory matters under the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq.);

(D) planning under the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (16 U.S.C. 472a et seq.);

(E) the preparation of analyses under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) (NEPA);

(F) applications for permits to drill under the Mineral Leasing Act (30 U.S.C. 181 et seq.); and

(G) exploration plans and development and production plans under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (43 U.S.C. 1331 et seq.).

(2) PREFERENCE AND INCENTIVES.—To the maximum extent practicable, for purposes of this subsection, Federal agencies shall give preference to employees volunteering for reassignment to the regional offices, and shall offer incentives to attract and retain regional office employees, including, but not limited to, retaining contract employees, rotational assignments, salary incentives of up to 120 percent of an employee’s existing salary immediately prior to reassignment, or any combination of strategies.

(e) Duties.—Each employee assigned under subsection (d) shall—

(1) within 90 days after the date of assignment, report to the regional office to which the employee is assigned;

(2) be responsible for all issues relating to the jurisdiction of the home office or agency of the employee; and

(3) participate as part of the team working on proposed oil and gas projects, planning, and environmental analyses.

(f) Creation of and delegation of authority to regional permit coordinators.—The Federal Permit Coordinator shall appoint a Regional Permit Coordinator to be located within each regional office established under this section, with full authority to act on behalf of the Federal Permit Coordinator.

(g) Additional personnel.—The Federal Permit Coordinator or Regional Permit Coordinators may at any time direct that any Federal agency party to the MOU under subsection (c) assign additional staff required to implement the duties of the regional offices.

SEC. 4. Reviews and actions of Federal agencies.

(a) Schedules for timely permit decisionmaking.—Within 10 days after the date on which the Secretary receives any oil and gas permit application or amended application, the Secretary shall either notify the applicant that the application is complete or notify the applicant that information is missing and specify the information that is required to be submitted for the application to be complete. Within 30 days after notifying a permit applicant that an application is complete, the Secretary, in consultation with the permit applicant as necessary, shall determine and inform the Regional Permit Coordinator responsible for that project area whether the proposed permit is a class I, class II, or class III permit. The Regional Permit Coordinator shall as soon as possible but in no event later than 30 days following the Secretary’s determination establish a binding schedule to ensure the most expeditious possible review and processing of the requested permit, in accordance with this section.

(b) Permit classes and schedules.—

(1) CLASS I PERMITS.—An oil and gas permit shall be designated as a class I permit under this section if the permitted activity is of a nature that would typically require preparation of an environmental impact statement under NEPA to inform the permitting decision. For such permits, the Regional Permit Coordinator shall establish a schedule for timely completion of all permit reviews and processing, not to exceed 30 months. The Regional Permit Coordinator shall make the schedule publicly available within 10 days after the schedule is established.

(2) CLASS II PERMITS.—An oil and gas permit shall be designated as a class II permit under this section if the permitted activity is of a nature that would typically be found not to significantly affect the quality of the human environment under NEPA. For such permits, the Regional Permit Coordinator shall establish the most expeditious schedule possible for completion of all permit reviews and processing, not to exceed 90 days. The Regional Permit Coordinator may grant a one-time extension of that schedule, not to exceed 60 days, upon a good cause showing that additional time is necessary to complete permit decisions. Not later than 15 days after establishing or extending any schedule for a class II permit, the Regional Permit Coordinator shall provide the permit applicant with the schedule.

(3) CLASS III PERMITS.—Notwithstanding paragraphs (1) and (2), an oil and gas permit shall be designated as a class III permit under this section if the permitted activity either qualifies for a statutory or regulatory categorical exclusion under NEPA or if the requirements under NEPA and other applicable law for the permit have been completed within 30 days after the date of a complete application. For such permits, the permit shall be issued within 30 days after the date of a complete application.

(4) RECLASSIFICATION OF CLASS II PERMIT.—If prior to the expiration of the established schedule for a class II permit newly discovered information indicates that the class II permit will significantly affect the quality of the human environment, the Secretary may, in consultation with the permit applicant, reclassify the permit as a class I permit under paragraph (1), and the Regional Coordinator shall establish an amended schedule that complies with the provisions of that paragraph.

(c) Reporting.—The Regional Permit Coordinators shall include data on all schedule timing and compliance in their reports to the Federal Permit Coordinator required under subsection (i), who shall include such data in the report to the President and Congress required under subsection (i).

(d) Dispute resolution.—The Regional Permit Coordinator shall resolve all administrative issues that affect oil and gas permit reviews. The Regional Permit Coordinator shall report jointly to the Federal Permit Coordinator and to the head of the relevant action agency, or his or her designee, for resolution of any issue regarding an oil and gas permit that may result in missing the schedule deadlines established pursuant to subsection (b). The Regional Permit Coordinators shall include data regarding the incidence and resolution of disputes under this subsection in their reports to the Federal Permit Coordinator required under subsection (i), who shall include such reported data and develop recommendations in the report to the President and Congress required under subsection (i).

(e) Remedies.—An applicant for a class I permit may bring a cause of action to seek expedited mandamus review, pursuant to the procedures in section 7, if a Regional Permit Coordinator or the Secretary fails to—

(1) establish a schedule in accordance with subsection (b);

(2) enforce and ensure completion of reviews within schedule deadlines; or

(3) take all actions as are necessary and proper to avoid jeopardizing the timely completion of the entire schedule.

If an agency fails to complete its review of and issue a decision upon a permit within the schedule established by the Court pursuant to section 7(f), that permit shall be deemed granted to the applicant.

(f) Prohibition of certain terms and conditions.—No Federal agency may include in any permit, right-of-way, or other authorization issued for an oil and gas project subject to the provisions of this Act, any term or condition that may be authorized, but is not required, by the provisions of any applicable law, if the Federal Permit Coordinator determines that such term or condition would prevent or impair in any significant respect completion of a permit review within the time schedule established pursuant to subsection (b) or would otherwise impair in any significant respect expeditious oil and gas development. The Federal Permit Coordinator shall not have any authority to impose any terms, conditions, or requirements beyond those imposed by any Federal law, agency, regulation, or lease term.

(g) Consolidated record.—The Federal Permit Coordinator, acting through the appropriate Regional Permit Coordinator, with the cooperation of Federal and State administrative officials and agencies, shall maintain a complete, consolidated record of all decisions made or actions taken by the Federal Permit Coordinator or Regional Permit Coordinator or by any Federal agency with respect to any oil and gas permit.

(h) Relationship to NEPA and Energy Policy Act of 2005.—

(1) Section 390(a) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (42 U.S.C. 15942(a)) is amended—

(A) by striking “rebuttable presumption that the use of a”; and

(B) by striking “would apply”.

(2) Section 17(p) of the Mineral Leasing Act (30 U.S.C. 226(p)) is repealed.

(i) Additional powers and responsibilities.—

(1) REGIONAL PERMIT COORDINATOR REPORTS.—The Regional Permit Coordinators shall each submit a report to the Federal Permit Coordinator by December 31 of each year that documents each office’s performance in meeting the objectives under this Act, including recommendations to further streamline the permitting process.

(2) REDIRECTION OF PRIORITIES OR RESOURCES.—In order to expedite overall permitting activity, the Federal Permit Coordinator may redirect the priority of regional office activities or the allocation of resources among such offices, and shall engage the agencies that are parties to the MOU to the extent such adjustments implicate their respective staffs or resources.

(3) REPORT TO CONGRESS.—Beginning three years after the date of enactment of this Act, the Federal Permit Coordinator shall prepare and submit a report to the President and Congress by April 15 of each year that outlines the results achieved under this Act and makes recommendations to the President and Congress for further improvements in processing oil and gas permits on Federal lands.

SEC. 5. State coordination.

The Governor of any State wherein an oil and gas operation may require a Federal permit, or the coastline of which is in immediate geographic proximity to oil and gas operations on the Outer Continental Shelf, may be a signatory to the MOU for purposes of fulfilling any State responsibilities with respect to Federal oil and gas permitting decisions. The Regional Permit Coordinators shall facilitate and coordinate concurrent State reviews of requested permits for oil and gas projects on the Outer Continental Shelf.

SEC. 6. Savings provision.

Except as expressly stated, nothing in this Act affects—

(1) the applicability of any Federal or State law; or

(2) any delegation of authority made by the head of a Federal agency the employees of which are participating in the implementation of this section.

SEC. 7. Administrative and Judicial Review.

(a) Administrative review.—Any oil and gas permitting decision for Federal lands onshore or on the Outer Continental Shelf that was issued in accordance with the procedures established by this Act shall not be subject to further administrative review within the respective Federal agency responsible for that decision, and shall be the final decision of that agency for purposes of judicial review.

(b) Exclusive jurisdiction over permit decisions.—Only the United States District Court for the District of Columbia shall have original jurisdiction over any civil action for the review of such a permit decision, including any civil action brought pursuant to section 4(e) and subsection (f) of this section.

(c) Limitations on claims.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any action arising under Federal law seeking judicial review of a permit, license, or approval issued by a Federal agency for an oil and gas permit subject to this Act shall be barred unless it is filed within 90 days of the date of the decision. Nothing in this Act shall creates a right to judicial review or places any limit on filing a claim that a person has violated the terms of a permit, license, or approval.

(d) Filing of record.—When any civil action is brought pursuant to this Act, the Federal Permit Coordinator shall immediately prepare for the court the consolidated record compiled pursuant to section 4(f).

(e) Expedited review.—Any action for judicial review challenging a decision approved pursuant to this section shall be set for consideration by not later than 90 days after the date the action is filed.

(f) Expedited mandamus review.—Notwithstanding subsection (e), within 30 days after the filing of an action under section 4(e) challenging or seeking to enforce an established permit review schedule for a class I permit, the court shall issue a decision either compelling permit issuance or sanctioning the delay and establishing a new schedule that enables the most expeditious possible completion of proceedings. In rendering its decision, the court shall review whether the agencies subject to the schedule have been acting in good faith, whether the permit applicant has been cooperating fully with the agencies that are responsible for issuing the requested permits, and any other relevant matters. The court may issue orders to enforce any schedule it establishes under this subsection.

(g) No private right of action.—Except as expressly provided in section 4(e) and subsection (f) of this section, this Act shall not be construed to create any additional right, benefit, or trust responsibility, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or equity, by a person against the United States, its agencies, its officers, or any person.

(h) Finality of leasing decisions.—Notwithstanding the provisions of any law or regulation to the contrary, a decision by the Bureau of Land Management or the Minerals Management Service to issue a Final Notice of Sale and proceed with an oil and gas lease sale pursuant to any mineral leasing law shall not be subject to further administrative review within the Department of the Interior, and shall be the final decision of the agency for purposes of judicial review.

SEC. 8. Amendments to publication process.

Section 18 of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (43 U.S.C. 1344) is amended—

(1) by amending subsection (c)(2) to read as follows:

“(2) The Secretary shall publish a proposed leasing program in the Federal Register, and shall submit a copy of such proposed program to the Governor of each affected State, for review and comment. The Governor may solicit comments from those executives of local governments in his State which he, in his discretion, determines will be affected by the proposed program.”;

(2) by striking subsection (c)(3); and

(3) in subsection (d)(2) by inserting “final” after “proposed”.

SEC. 9. Transfer of funds.

The Secretary may use any Federal oil and gas lease revenues that otherwise would be deposited to the Treasury of the United States as “miscellaneous receipts” pursuant to section 35 of the Mineral Leasing Act (30 U.S.C. 191) or section 9 of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (43 U.S.C. 1338), for all costs of staffing and operating the regional offices authorized pursuant to this Act. The Secretary may use such funds to reimburse each Federal agency for the costs of its personnel assigned to the regional offices.