Energy, Environment and Public Lands
Increasing access to American energy sources will create jobs, grow our economy and reduce our nation’s dependence on energy from volatile foreign countries.
Spanning the Colorado Rocky Mountains, Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District is blessed with abundant natural resources, open spaces and scenic beauty. Our energy portfolio includes traditional energy resources like natural gas, oil and clean coal, as well as renewable sources like wind, solar and hydropower.
Development of our energy resources must be done carefully and responsibly, so that we can preserve our state’s environment and pristine beauty. To that end, I am committed to keeping Colorado beautiful through responsible conservation and forest management, and by ensuring that our open spaces and public lands remain accessible so that people from all around the world continue to visit and experience our world class skiing, hiking, angling, hunting and many other types of outdoor recreation. Development of our domestic energy resources is critical to create jobs, grow our economy and increase our nation’s energy security. I strongly support an comprehensive energy approach that includes development of natural gas, clean coal and American made oil, as well as critical alternative energy sources such as hydropower, wind and solar. This will create new job opportunities in Colorado and throughout the country while making us less dependent on unreliable foreign energy and decreasing energy costs to American families and small businesses.
Since arriving in Congress, I have made it a priority to find a responsible balance between development of our energy resources and conservation of our natural treasures and open spaces. I believe that both can be achieved at the same time.
- Water Rights
- Renewable Energy
- Domestic Energy
- Forest Management and Wildfire Prevention
- Public Lands
- Local Issues
More on my work on Natural Resources issues:
This is a critical time for water issues in the West. Pristine rivers and streams prominently traverse Colorado’s landscape, serving as a vital lifeline for families and local economies. The farming and ranching community, ski industry and countless others rely on Colorado’s precious water for their livelihoods. We have significant opportunities to protect and responsibly develop our water resources, while ensuring that our state’s water remains under local control, and finding storage solutions to keep more of Colorado’s water in Colorado.
In addition to these legislative items, my colleagues and I in the House Natural Resources Committee have held a number of hearings to examine federal management of water resources and the ways in which those policies and practices can be improved. We saw federal efforts to rearrange the legal structure by which water rights are held and confiscate private water rights for federal ownership—the latest in a line of several federal efforts to end-run Colorado water law.
The federal government has undertaken an effort to confiscate private water rights, this time through the use of permit conditions for ski areas. It’s clear from the past conduct of the Forest Service and other federal agencies that there are broader implications than the impact this action is having on the just ski industry and the jobs it supports. Read more.
All water rights owners should be concerned about the precedent the water clause in ski area permit could set. Because of the significant percentage of water that originates on National Forest System lands in Colorado, this issue could impact all entities that have water rights associated with any National Forest System lands, and if adopted by other federal agencies, the scope of that impact could be even broader. Those potentially impacted by this type of federal authority over water rights originating on public lands include cities, counties, water districts, owners of private residences, marinas and summer resorts, and other businesses such as ranching, mining, or utilities.
Water right allocation is a matter of state law and the federal and state courts have repeatedly held that the Forest Service does not have expansive federal reserved rights. Read more.
To protect privately held water rights from federal takings I have introduced with bipartisan support the Water Rights Protection Act.
The Water Rights Protection Act:
- Prohibits agencies from implementing a permit condition that requires the transfer of privately held water rights to the federal government in order to receive or renew a permit for the use of land;
- Prohibits the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture from imposing other conditions that require the transfer of water rights without just compensation;
- Upholds longstanding federal deference to state water law;
- Has no cost to taxpayers.
Learn more about this commonsense bipartisan legislation here.
As you know, a stable water supply is critical to western economies, jobs, and food security. The uncertainties of annual water availability can imperil those communities which are hindered by an unwieldy regulatory framework that hinders the ability to store water for vital purposes. Through prudent supply management and the ability to store much needed water, communities can support jobs that depend on the availability of water, protect food security, control flooding, ensure continued recreation opportunities, provide water for the development of hydropower, and meet environmental protection needs.
Among the immediate concerns regarding water storage is this year’s relatively low snow pack levels in Colorado. Streamlining the regulatory permitting process can help better prepare those communities that rely on snow pack to support local economies. My aim is to draw renewed attention to this important issue that is too often forgotten in D.C. I am optimistic that this effort can help set us on a path towards smarter policies governing water storage. Read more.
Water policy is a high priority to me and I remain dedicated to protecting and enhancing Colorado’s precious water resources.
Renewable energy resources are, like traditional resources, a key component of the all-of-the-above energy strategy that our country needs. To help meet this country’s need for increased access to clean, renewable hydropower, I passed H.R. 678, the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act of 2013.
This bill passed in the House with strong bipartisan support and was signed into law by the President--one of the few pieces of legislation to get to this point in the 113th Congress. The Hydropower and Rural Jobs Act streamlines the federal regulatory process for small hydropower projects on Bureau of Reclamation conduits, allowing job creators to invest in production on those projects, while ensuring that water supply remains the primary purpose of Reclamation conduits. Taking advantage of this legislation could produce enough hydropower in Colorado alone to power a million homes, and support much needed rural jobs the process. Read more.
Colorado is a wind energy leader, and accounts for the third highest percentage of wind power in this nation. Wind energy plays an important role in the Third Congressional District and while this renewable resource is still up-and-coming, it accounts for nearly 6,000 jobs in the state of Colorado. I recently joined with many of my colleagues on the Colorado Congressional delegation in standing up for wind energy by encouraging the temporary extension of the wind production tax credit with a pay for. This credit has helped jump start development of this new, responsible energy resource, and as the industry continues to grow, this credit should be phased out. See more on wind energy here.
I cosponsored a measure (H.R. 596) introduced by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) that would encourage the development of renewable energy resources on public lands by streamlining the permitting process.
As it stands, the permitting process can take years before renewable projects are able to move forward on public lands. The Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act seeks to restructure the application process to more resemble that which is currently in place for traditional resources, creating a more streamlined process for renewable projects. Additionally, the bill would establish royalty rates for renewables on public lands, sending the majority of revenues back to counties and states where the projects are located, as well as in support of conservation efforts. Read more.
I’m a strong supporter of an all-of-the-above energy plan that includes renewable energy resources such as wind, solar and hydropower, as well as traditional resources like natural gas, oil and clean coal. By advancing a true all-of-the-above plan, we can create American jobs, lower energy costs and increase our nation’s energy security.
The Western United States may hold more than 1.5 trillion barrels of oil--enough to provide the United States with energy for the next 200 years. Unfortunately, the BLM issued 46% fewer oil and gas leases in Colorado in 2010 than in 2005, and leasing revenue has dropped by 85% during that time.
Colorado, along with our neighboring Western states, is in a unique position to contribute to our nation’s energy security and ensure that the United States remains competitive in the world market. By promoting a common-sense regulatory framework, embracing domestic energy research and development, and applying environmental and safety standards already on the books rather than adding costly new mandates, we can help meet America’s energy needs right here at home, providing energy security that will benefit American families.
Shovel-ready projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline would create thousands of American jobs – an estimated 20,000 direct jobs and 22,000 indirect jobs. Additionally, the Keystone project will provide a secure source of the crude oil necessary to fuel any American economic recovery. I will continue to pressure the Administration to approve this project immediately and am proud to have cast a vote in favor of building this commonsense project. Read more.
An all-of-the-above energy plan that includes renewable energy resources such as wind, solar and hydropower, as well as traditional resources like natural gas, oil and clean coal is the surest way to increase affordable American energy, create American jobs and strengthen American energy security.
That is why I introduced the Planning for American Energy Act (H.R. 1394). This legislation, which passed in the House as part of the Federal Lands and Energy Security Act of 2013 (H.R. 1965—listed as Title II), would establish a true all-of-the-above domestic energy plan, putting into place common sense steps to create a framework for using federal lands to responsibly meet America’s energy needs.
If passed by the Senate, the Federal Lands and Energy Security Act would jumpstart American job creation, and create energy certainty and security in this country through a true all-of-the-above approach. Read more.
To be sure common sense rules play an important role in our economy and in keeping the American people safe. However, common sense has been lost in a regulatory process that has become politicized and wrought with bureaucracy and overlap. We continue to see the fallout from job-killing regulations that have crushed economic recovery and left millions of Americans out of work.
The Western Slope has been hit especially hard by policies that have stamped out development of our natural resources and suffocated economic growth. We must revisit the duplicative and unnecessary regulations that have stifled energy production and killed jobs. It’s time to put an end to the Obama Administration’s assault on energy production and get our country’s economy moving once more. I held a Congressional hearing in Colorado to shed light on some of these job killing rules and regulations. Read more.
The President and the EPA continue to ignore the Regulatory Flexibility Act and consider the negative impacts of their job killing regulations on small businesses, consumers and jobs. I held a hearing in the subcommittee I chair to examine the President's Climate Action Plan and hear from small businesses that would be significantly impacted and suffer significant economic harm. Read more.
I support a balanced approach to public land use that includes respecting the environment that we all deeply value, while making the best use of our natural resources. Recreation, preservation, access and job creation are all important aspects of the multiple use management for which these lands are truly intended.
In this vein of conservation, I introduced an amendment to an interior appropriations bill (H.AMDT. 734 to H.R. 2584) to direct $5 million from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Programs and Management Fund, to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, in the amount of $2.5 million to the Bureau of Land Management and $2.5 million to the Forest Service. Instead of using these funds to feed the bureaucracy, my amendment directs the funds to be used for conservation, to expand access to public lands, and to help fund making public lands, public. This amendment was adopted and included in the bill that was passed.
I support conservation and preservation of Colorado’s scenic, historic and cultural treasures and believe that land use designations should be driven with a balance of local initiative and consideration that public lands belong to all Americans. Such as the case with Chimney Rock, where I worked with local citizens and groups to elevate one of Colorado’s most important cultural and historic treasures to a national monument. The House passed my legislation to make Chimney Rock a national monument during the 112th Congress. Tthe President ultimately declared the site a monument in 2012. I’m a strong believer that this and all public lands designations be locally driven, and as such the preferred method to advance this designation would have been through legislation developed with extensive community input, such as my bill. I was ultimately pleased to see a Chimney Rock National Monument become a reality. Read more.
In addition to my efforts on Chimney Rock I have joined with Sen. Bennet to, with the support of the community, introduce legislation (H.R. 1839) to protect the Hermosa Creek Watershed in Southwest Colorado. As one of Colorado’s most scenic areas, Hermosa Creek has long been treasured by the local community and by countless visitors who have explored all that the region has to offer. Local stakeholders including snowmobilers, anglers, hunters, other outdoor enthusiasts, elected officials, miners and Southwest Colorado residents have voiced their support to preserve the Hermosa Creek watershed and the multiple use recreation opportunities it provides. In response to this locally driven effort, Sen. Bennet and I have joined together to put forward legislation to, without any additional cost to taxpayers, protect and preserve this special place, and ensure that Coloradans as well as visitors to our great state have the opportunity to experience Hermosa Creek’s abundant natural beauty for generations to come. Read more.
I’ve joined with Senator Udall to advance another important environmental effort to give Good Samaritan groups the additional binding legal safeguards they need to remediate the cleanup of abandoned mines and keep Colorado's streams and water clean. There are more than 7,000 abandoned hard rock mine sites located in Colorado. Currently existing hurdles and the potential for lawsuits discourage Good Samaritan groups from cleaning up Colorado's abandoned mines and providing our communities and environment with a valuable service. If enacted, H.R.2970 would rectify this problem. Read more.
Forest Management and Wildfire Prevention
Since the outbreak in 1996, the bark beetle epidemic has severely damaged forests in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. In total it has destroyed or damaged over 41 million acres of pine forests, including 2.9 million acres in Colorado. The epidemic has affected many miles of roads, paths and trails, fueled caastrophic wildfires across the Western U.S., and put essential water supplies at risk.
Healthy forests are important to the livelihood of millions of people in the West and critical to economic recovery. The forests are a source of a reliable water supply, tourism, energy generation, and recreation for the region. Swift action is essential in the face of threats to public safety and critical infrastructure. People’s lives and livelihoods are at risk because of the damage that has been inflicted by the bark beetle. We have been losing the fight in the Rocky Mountain Region, and we bear the scars in our district. We must do more actively manage our public lands to stop the epidemic. Going forward it’s critical that our delegation works together to ensure that the Healthy Forest Act is fully implemented and that there is sufficient access to our forests and resources available for proper management.
After more than a year of committee work, meetings with the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and other agencies, and Congressional hearings on forest management, including a hearing that took place earlier this year in Montrose, Colorado, I was joined by my Colorado colleagues Reps. Cory Gardner, Doug Lamborn and Mike Coffman as well as Reps. Greg Walden (R-OR), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Steve Pearce (R-NM) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ), in introducing a piece of legislation to address forest health in the most comprehensive way possible.
The Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Reduction Act of 2013 (H.R. 818) increases state control over forest management decisions in high-risk areas on National Forest Service lands and lands under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management. It empowers governors, like Colorado’s John Hickenlooper, in consultation with county commissioners from affected counties as well as affected Indian tribes, to designate high-risk areas and develop emergency hazardous fuels reduction projects for those areas. By allowing states to play a larger role in addressing this emergency, we can more proactively manage our forests, prevent future destruction from wildfires, and promote a healthy natural environment.
Last year Colorado experienced two record breaking fires, and already this year the Black Forest Fire has killed two people and destroyed more homes than any other in Colorado history. In 2012, Colorado wildfires destroyed nearly 650 structures, killed six Coloradans, burned more than 384,000 acres of land, and caused over $538 million in property losses. With dry conditions, poor forest health, and fires burning throughout the state, this year is shaping up to be equally devastating.
The cost of proactive healthy forest management is far less than the cost of wildfire suppression and cleaning up the aftermath. According to the Forest Service, the agency spent $296 million on hazardous fuels treatment nationwide in FY2012 while spending $1.77 billion on wildfire suppression during the same time.
As the old saying goes, ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’
That is what this legislation is about; getting ahead of this problem by investing greater resources toward prevention so we can take a more proactive approach to restoring our forests to a healthy natural state and preventing the intense fires that have caused so much damage throughout the West.
From funding our schools, public safety and infrastructure projects, to creating jobs and revenue in the local economy, responsible timber harvesting provides numerous benefits to rural communities in Colorado and in other Western states in addition to fostering forest health and mitigating hazardous conditions that lead to wildfire.
I was joined by my Republican colleagues from Colorado and the Chairmen of the Congressional Western Caucus in introducing a resolution to express the sense of the House of Representatives that more must be done to address the conditions of forests on federal lands.
This resolution dovetails with my Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Prevention legislation, and is a call to action to address the critical condition of Western Forests in order to prevent future destruction. I’m working with my colleague, Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, to address the need for proactive forest management in addition to fixing the broken secure rural schools system.
The Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Prevention Act (H.R. 818) was combined with Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings’s (R-WA) Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act (H.R. 1526) during a Committee markup and passed in the House.
H.R. 1526 (Hastings) addresses the shortfall in county revenue for schools and critical services caused by lack of timber harvest by requiring the Forest Service to produce at least half of the sustainable annual yield of timber required under law since 1908 and to share 25 percent of those receipts with rural counties. In order to meet this goal while providing for healthy forests, the bill includes the local management framework set out in H.R. 818 (Tipton) by directing the Forest Service to prioritize hazardous fuels reduction projects proposed by governors and affected counties and tribes. To expedite locally based healthy forest projects, the Hastings-Tipton package builds on the positive streamlining procedures implemented under the bipartisan Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 (HFRA). Read more.
One of the lasting environmental impacts of the devestating wildfires that have ravaged Colorado over the past decade is contamination to pristine watersheds. The best way to protect Colorado's watersheds is to take action to reduce the risks of forest fires through proactive healthy forest management and prevent the damage before it's too late. After the fires however, it's critical that resources are in place to clean-up and restore our watersheds. With this in mind, I joined with my Colorado colleagues in the House in urging that resources are in place for the Emergency Watershed Protection program. Read our letter here.
Additionally, as Colorado's abundant energy resources are developed, we must ensure that it is done responsibly and in full accordance with the rules that are in place to safeguard our environment and protect our watersheds. In Colorado, Governor John Hickenlooper has led the charge in implementing a responsible standard to monitor oil and gas production, and ensure that our water remains safe and clean. Prevention is the best form of conservation, and having responsible and consistent production guidelines in place will help safeguard our environment, as we strengthen our economy through responsible energy development.
Eleven Colorado and Utah counties are partnering on a local Gunnison Sage-Grouse conservation effort to assist with preservation of the species without having to obtain an Endangered Species Listing. The Memorandum of Understanding group (MOU group) followed a U.S. Forest Service announcement that they were looking at potentially listing the Gunnison Sage-Grouse as an endangered species and designating over 1.7 million acres in Western Colorado and Eastern Utah for critical habitat. Ranchers, businesses and residents have strong concerns that a listing of this size would devastate the economies in this area. $30 million in public and private funds have been spent at the local level to try and preserve the species through this local conservation approach. USFWS data now shows the population of Gunnison Sage-Grouse has increased in the Gunnison Basin as a result of this investment and these local efforts. Localized preservation efforts, which take into account the unique topography and ecology of the regions in which a species lives, are far more effective than federal efforts that implement blanket approaches with disregard for local conditions and tie up needed recovery resources with endless litigation. I have repeatedly urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support this approach. Read more.
State Mineral Royalties
I joined several of my Western Caucus colleagues in introducing legislation that would amend the State Mineral Revenue Protection Act. H.R. 1972 would streamline how mineral royalty payments are distributed to the state and federal government. The State Mineral Revenue Protection Act amends the MLA to grant states the option to collect their share of the mineral royalties directly from the producer, and grants those states full property interest in their share. Such changes would bar the federal government from inappropriately withholding state’s funds under the pretext of administrative costs or the more recent example of sequestration. Communities in my district use mineral royalties to help fund important education, infrastructure, and emergency services. Read more.
Leadville National Fish Hatchery
The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will publish its strategic plan for the future of the National Fish Hatchery System (NHFS) in the near future. I am told that based on the review of propagation hatcheries within the NFHS, there will likely be some closures of hatcheries nationwide. We all recognize the current fiscal challenges our nation faces, but prudent, economical uses of our resources in viable fish hatchery operations can have significant benefits for our local and national economies as well assist with increasing the supply of fish for our inland waters. I have asked the USFWS to redirect funds from other wasteful areas and prevent any imminent closure of the Leadville Hatchery. Read more.
Protecting the Pueblo Community from Floods
I joined two of my Colorado lawmakers in urging the US Army Corps of Engineers to strongly consider the request submitted by the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District to address potential flooding concerns on the Fountain Creek in Pueblo. By taking proactive action we can reduce future flood risks and protect homes and property while also reducing the potential costs that would stem from a flood disaster. Read more.
• Congressional Western Caucus—Dedicated to preserving the West’s dynamic and unique culture, and to finding innovative solutions that address the distinctive concerns facing western and rural communities.
• Natural Gas Caucus—Championing the use of clean, plentiful, domestic natural gas.
• Coal Caucus—Ensuring that the coal industry, and the thousands of jobs it supports, has a strong and unified voice in Congress.
- Denver Post Op-ed:Funding Colorado Education
- Grand Junction Daily Sentinel Op-ed: Keystone pipeline offers shovel-ready jobs, advancing energy security
- Politico Op-ed: Energy regulations hurt job creation, by Rep. Scott Tipton
- Denver Post Guest Op-ed: Energy in the West Key to Economic Recovery by Reps. Doug Lamborn and Scott Tipton
- Pueblo Chieftain Op-ed: Federal spending, regulation strangling American taxpayers by Rep. Scott Tipton
- Grand Junction Daily Sentinel Op-ed: Congress must curb Obama administration’s regulatory overkill, by Rep. Scott Tipton
For more information concerning my work and views on the issue of energy, please contact my Washington, DC office.