Rep. Kristi Noem voted for more bad legislation yesterday. Joining a nearly unanimous Republican caucus against a just slightly less unanimous Democratic caucus, Rep. Noem voted for the Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act.
Two reasons Noem voted wrong:
- The bill would give the Department of Interior only 60 days to act on applications to drill for oil or gas on public lands. Absent action, the drilling applications would receive automatic approval. If I'm a smart oil company, I get my lawyers to draw up 1,000 applications with lots of documentation, submit them all on April 1, hope Interior can only process 10 apps a day, and start drilling like crazy at 400 sites on May 31. Giving a federal agency only 60 days to analyze an issue is like saying to the FBI, "Sure, you can investigate South Dakota's EB-5 program, but if you can't find anything actionable in 60 days, then there must not be any corruption in the program." Some issues are more complicated than an arbitrary deadline set by Republican legislators as a favor to Big Oil.
- The bill includes a requirement that anyone filing a formal protest to a drilling application must pay a $5,000 fee. Imagine if folks opposed to the Powertech uranium mining permit in the Black Hills had to pay a fee like that to file for official intervenor status in the mining permit hearings. Imagine if the veterans who spoke at last week's Sioux Falls school board meeting had to buy a ticket at the door to protest the board's Pledge of Allegiance policy. Requiring folks who want to challenge government action to pay a fee for exercising their rights flies in the face of the First Amendment. But Rep. Noem votes to make the Constitution a pay-to-play document, open only to the highest bidders.
President Obama has said he'll veto this bill. If we send him a good Democrat in Rep. Noem's place next year, he won't have to work his veto pen so hard.