Federal Lands and Related Resources: Overview and Selected Issues for the 116th Congress

Federal Lands and Related Resources: Overview and Selected Issues for the 116th Congress. Congressional Research Service. Katie Hoover et al. March 18, 2019

The Property Clause in the U.S. Constitution (Article IV, §3, clause 2) grants Congress the authority to acquire, dispose of, and manage federal property. The 116th Congress faces multiple policy issues related to federal lands and natural resources. These issues include how much and which land the government should own and how lands and resources should be used and managed. These issues affect local communities, industries, ecosystems, and the nation.

[PDF format, 34 pages].

Wildfires in the United States: A Primer

Wildfires in the United States: A Primer. Urban Institute. Vera Brusentsev and Wayne Vroman. January 28, 2016.

The report examines recent wildfires in the United States, summarizing their frequency, trends, and costs. It documents the increase in large wildfires and shows their concentration in western states. Cost and budget issues linked to wildfires are also examined. The report recommends ways to reduce the frequency and costs of wildfires along with measures to enhance the resilience of local communities to wildfires. Also noted is a misalignment of incentives in current wildfire policy. Local governments make most of the decisions that influence the cost of wildfires, but the federal government incurs most of the costs for preventing and suppressing wildfires. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 22 pages, 465.47 KB].

The US and Russia Face to Face as Ice Curtain

The US and Russia Face to Face as Ice Curtain. YaleGlobal. Humphrey Hawksley. November 5, 2015.

The U.S. defense budget for 2014 is more than double that of Russia and China’s combined. Measuring naval strength is trickier as comparisons of hulls or personnel matter less than surveillance and sophisticated weaponry and vessels like ice-cutters. As climate change melts sea ice, countries eye the Arctic for natural resources and trade routes, reassessing naval positions. Journalist Humphrey Hawksley writes about the Ice Curtain between the United States and Russia, one of three symbolic frontiers of the Cold War with just 88 kilometers separating each mainland: “Russia is bolstering its military presence there while reminding that its maritime boundary with the United States remains in dispute. For its part, the United States has stayed quiet.” The border between two rivals is described as non-hostile. Alaskans and Russians struggle with budgets too dependent on oil, yet are hopeful that melting sea ice means more development, infrastructure and trade for their remote settings. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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Look to the Forests: How Performance Payments Can Slow Climate Change

Look to the Forests: How Performance Payments Can Slow Climate Change. Center for Global Development. October 14, 2015.

Protecting tropical forests is good for the global climate and good for development in forested countries. In the absence of robust carbon markets, performance-based funding to reduce emissions from deforestation is a key way donors can provide the incentives and commitment tropical countries need to curtail forest loss. Tropical forests are undervalued assets in the race to avert catastrophic climate change. They deliver a global, and very public, benefit by capturing and storing atmospheric carbon. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 74 pages, 1.52 MB].

The Future of Forests: Emissions from Tropical Deforestation with and without a Carbon Price, 2016–2050

The Future of Forests: Emissions from Tropical Deforestation with and without a Carbon Price, 2016–2050. Center for Global Development. Jonah Busch and Jens Engelmann. August 24, 2015.

An area of tropical forest the size of India will be deforested in the next 35 years, burning through more than one-sixth of the remaining carbon that can be emitted if global warming is to be kept below 2 degrees Celsius, the “planetary carbon budget”, but many of these emissions could be cheaply avoided by putting a price on carbon, according to the authors. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 42 pages, 885.7 KB].

Fair Share Scorecard: Ensuring Taxpayers Receive a Fair Share for America’s Public Resources

Fair Share Scorecard: Ensuring Taxpayers Receive a Fair Share for America’s Public Resources. Center for American Progress. Greg Zimmerman et al. August 2015.

President Richard Nixon’s 1973 request that Congress reform federal mining policy—though still unheeded—affirmed a powerful principle that guides U.S. natural resource policy: America’s public lands and waters, and the energy and minerals beneath them, belong to all Americans. It follows that, as owners of these resources, American taxpayers should be entitled to their fair share of the revenues from drilling, mining, logging, and other development that takes place on public lands. In practice, however, the outdated laws and regulations governing energy and natural resource extraction on U.S. public lands provide few protections for the fiscal interests of U.S. taxpayers. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 24 pages, 815.7 KB].

How Much Rainforest Is In That Chocolate Bar?

How Much Rainforest Is In That Chocolate Bar? World Resources Institute. Nancy Harris. August 2015.

The technical note looks at the carbon emissions resulting from deforestation for a specific cacao plantation in Peru and the potential carbon footprint of chocolate sourced from that area. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 10 pages, 722 KB].

High Costs of Cheap Oil

High Costs of Cheap Oil. YaleGlobal. Deepak Gopinath. May 7, 2015.

Consumers are delighted by low oil prices and economists anticipate increased global growth. But the low prices are locking many industries into infrastructure that relies on fossil fuels. “High-carbon infrastructure – power plants, pipelines, factories, inefficient buildings, roads and transport vehicles – built now will last and pollute for decades to come,” writes Deepak Gopinath. The low prices suppress demand for new technologies based on alternative fuels. Developing nations account for most global population growth in the energy sector. Delays in developing alternative energies lock countries like China and India into competitive patterns that encourage dependence on fossil fuels. In addition to ending subsidies for fossil fuels, Gopinath encourages taxes on consumption to reduce use and develop funding for alternative energies. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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Mountaintop Mining: Background on Current Controversies

Mountaintop Mining: Background on Current Controversies. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Claudia Copeland. April 20, 2015.

Mountaintop removal mining involves removing the top of a mountain in order to recover the coal seams contained there. This practice occurs in six Appalachian states (Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Ohio). It creates an immense quantity of excess spoil (dirt and rock that previously composed the mountaintop), which is typically placed in valley fills on the sides of the former mountains, burying streams that flow through the valleys. Mountaintop mining is regulated under several laws, including the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).

[PDF format, 21 pages, 289.81 KB].

An Overview of Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas: Resources and Federal Actions

An Overview of Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas: Resources and Federal Actions. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Michael Ratner and Mary Tiemann. April 7, 2015.

The report focuses on the growth in U.S. oil and natural gas production driven primarily by tight oil formations and shale gas formations. It also reviews selected federal environmental regulatory and research initiatives related to unconventional oil and gas extraction, including the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) hydraulic fracturing rule (finalized in March 2015) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) actions.

[PDF format, 34 pages, 776.51 KB].