Ending our Opportunity Crisis by Developing our Abundant Natural Resources

April 4, 2014

Last week, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources favorably reported the nomination of Rhea Suh to be Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks to the full Senate, where her nomination will soon come to a vote.  I joined the other Republicans on the committee in voting against her nomination not only because of concerns about her experience and management abilities, but also because her nomination reveals this administration’s continuing efforts to make responsible development of natural resources difficult if not impossible.

For more than a decade Ms. Suh worked as a program officer at organizations with a record of opposition to fossil fuels—the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. In a 2007 Hewlett Foundation newsletter, she said that "the pace and magnitude of this [natural gas] development is easily the single greatest threat to the ecological integrity of the West." Even leasing federal land for resource extraction was a problem, she wrote, since it "precludes the possibility of any protection.”

This quote represents a worldview that is far removed from the mainstream. Many Democrats and Republicans in Congress agree that increased energy development is in the best interests of the country. Indeed, many in Congress also believe that the benefits of increased energy development can reach beyond our borders and be a critical tool to securing the interests of the United States and our allies abroad. Democrats such as Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Udall of Colorado have introduced bills that seek to significantly increase liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to other countries. But while Democrats seem to be jumping on the bandwagon of energy exports, most Democrats refuse to reform policies that actively prevent energy development. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot export energy that we cannot access, cannot develop, and cannot transport.

Currently, there are legislative proposals that will clarify regulations and provide the certainty that employers need to invest in energy production and infrastructure in this country. These proposals would have an immediate impact if passed. Proposals like Sen. David Vitter’s Energy Production and Project Delivery Act of 2013, Sen. John Barrasso’s Expedited LNG for American Allies Act of 2013, and Sen. Cornyn’s Endangered Species Settlement Reform Act, all of which I have cosponsored, are just some of the important reforms we need to enact if we are going to fully realize the benefits of homegrown American energy.

A recent article from the Wall Street Journal highlights how a vote for Rhea Suh is a vote against increased energy production.  

Ms. Suh's bio says that in nearly a decade at Hewlett she managed a "portfolio of grants designed to protect the ecosystems of the western part of North America." That sounds benign unless you know that the grants went to the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society and Natural Resources Defense Council, all of which are opposed to energy production on federal lands.

These groups are also part of the radical environmentalist community that pioneered the “sue-and-settle” strategy by which organizations sue the federal government and then obtain a settlement or consent decree that requires the federal agencies to establish policies favorable to these organizations. This strategy effectively silences the voice of the general public from these policy debates by avoiding the rulemaking process established by law. In fact, one of the greatest threats to responsible economic growth in Utah is a result of one of these consent decrees. The potential listing of the Greater Sage Grouse could derail most development—drilling, ranching, mining, farming, water projects—on some 50 million to 100 million acres in the West. Ms. Suh would be overseeing the agency that would implement the requirements of such a listing. The coincidences are simply too obvious to overlook, as are the consequences.

A vote to confirm Rhea Suh is a vote against energy production. A vote against energy production is also a vote against increased energy exports, because you can’t export natural gas that is still in the ground.  Ultimately, the Republican proposals that I support would add nearly 2 million jobs to the economy.  Many of these jobs pay an average wage above $30/hour.  It is time to lift the artificial weights and burdens of government that are preventing us from ending our opporunity crisis by developing our abundant natural resources.

blocked energy jobs