3:28 PM EST

Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-TX 18th

Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.

The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will designate the amendment.

The text of the amendment is as follows:

Page 15, beginning at line 4, strike section 1147.

The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 419, the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson Lee) and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from Texas.

3:28 PM EST

Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-TX 18th

Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.

The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will designate the amendment.

The text of the amendment is as follows:

Page 9, line 9, strike the closing quotation marks and the following period, and after line 9 insert the following:

``(C) RIGHT TO PETITION PRESERVED.--This paragraph shall not be construed to abridge the right of the people to petition for the redress of grievances, in violation of the first article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States.''.

The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 419, the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson Lee) and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from Texas.

3:29 PM EST

Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-TX 18th

Ms. JACKSON LEE. Let me thank Mr. Holt and Mr. Hastings and the Rules Committee for admitting this amendment.

Mr. Chairman, we could all engage in discussions about our commitment to a national energy policy. I would venture to say that we would not find one Member of this body that was not committed to the idea of individuals being [Page: H7224]

able to have low costs at the pump and to be able to have heat in the severe winters and air conditioning for those of us in the heat of summer in places like Texas and elsewhere. We are committed to doing so.

[Time: 15:30]

I said this earlier this morning on the rule. Let me thank the Rules Committee for this amendment that has been admitted on my behalf, but let me also say that we will do better if we come across the aisle and talk about the issues--again, sustainable environment, sustainable energy policy, the creation of jobs, and addressing the needs of low-income families. That is the American way. The American way is also the ability to petition your government in the system of laws that we have.

My amendment is simple. It indicates that the underlying bill should not be construed to abridge the right of the people to petition for the redress of grievances in violation of the first article of the amendment to the Constitution in the Bill of Rights.

It is important to note that there is a $5,000 fee for anyone who wants to protest the particular structure in this bill, upon aggrieved parties, to challenge the award by the agency of a lease, of a right-of-way, of a permit to drill on public lands. This $5,000 fee is supposed to give comfort because, on the larger entities--the businesses--it is a $6,500 fee. For many parties, that may adversely affect the individuals, who would be homeowners, small businesses, nonprofits, and community organizations.

A filing or a documentation fee of this amount, in many cases, is prohibitive and will discourage many injured parties from taking the actions necessary to vindicate their rights.

My amendment seeks to avoid this undesirable result by making it plain that it is not the intent of Congress to discourage parties from seeking relief where necessary or to deny access to justice to any party with a legitimate claim. I ask my colleagues to support this amendment.

I reserve the balance of my time.

3:31 PM EST

Doc Hastings, R-WA 4th

Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

To be clear, nothing in this act prohibits individuals from asserting their rights to petition the government. In fact, it would be ridiculous for us to try to write a statute that would negate the First Amendment, so nothing in this bill does that at all. Let me talk about the process here.

The BLM undertakes multiple layers of rulemaking and environmental review when going through its Federal actions. Nearly every layer of this process allows for the opportunity for public comments, involvement, and questions regarding BLM's actions. Nothing, Mr. Chairman, in this legislation impacts an individual's right to comment, petition, and object to the actions of BLM under this bill. Nothing, by the way, in this legislation stops individuals from filing lawsuits. That is important in this

debate on this amendment.

H.R. 1965 simply implements a cost recovery fee for the formal process of filing protests of oil and gas leasing. These formal protests require a direct BLM response, using staff time, energy, and resources to address what is, simply, often a delaying tactic. This paperwork recovery fee will ensure that BLM has the resources necessary to address the protests but that it has the necessary resources to carry out the functions of the Bureau of Land Management, which is for multipurpose use in this

country.

So it is for these reasons, Mr. Chairman, that I oppose this amendment, because it does not add anything to what people already have a constitutional right to do.

I reserve the balance of my time.

3:34 PM EST

Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-TX 18th

Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, I take issue with my good friend from Washington State.

This bill has a $5,000 documentation fee on the stage of protest and petition. Obviously, our good friends on the industry side don't even pay anything to nominate land, but it is a $5,000 barrier.

My friend refers to the administrative process. I am a lawyer. It is under the APA code. That is different from being able to go to a higher level and to be able to comment under the Federal Register and write that ``I don't like this,'' and then you are ruled against anyhow. Then your next level of protest is to be able to protest at the level that requires you to pay $5,000, not even $1,000. We are scoring this, and we are doing it on the backs of citizens.

My amendment does make sense because what it says is that we are committed as a Congress not to block people from being able to have an equal opportunity to protest. They may not prevail, Mr. Chairman, but they should have an equal opportunity.

I believe it would be senseless for Republicans and Democrats not to go on record to say that we support the opportunity for protest and petition. I am pro-energy independence, pro-jobs, pro-growing the economy, pro-fairness, pro-sustainable environment, and I believe that there are opportunities for us to come together. We haven't listened to each other. The gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Holt) just made some very important statements. I am making a statement about the idea.

I believe it is egregious to have a $5,000 fee on individuals--nonprofits, farmers, ranchers, neighbors, et cetera. I will say to you, if you want to understand what it means, in my town, there is a group going to court to fight against a high-rise. That high-rise, Mr. Chairman, went through every process--the planning commission, the city council--and they were rejected, but they are going into a lawsuit. They happen to be a little bit more prosperous. Farmers, ranchers, and others who are having

to pay $5,000 and neighbors who are having to pay $5,000, I simply think that is excessive.

My colleagues, since the amendment that I had was to eliminate the $5,000, I welcome a compromise of $1,000; but I offer this simple statement that what we do today shall not be construed to abridge the right of the people to petition for the redress of grievances in violation of the first article of the amendment, and it protects the Fifth Amendment as well, which is due process--the right to protect your property. [Page: H7225]

Frankly, I believe that it is extremely

important because there are entities that are near Federal lands.

So, with a generosity of spirit, I would ask my colleagues to support the Jackson Lee amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.