Failed Biden Proposal Would Have Allowed Our Enemies To Control Our Land Use

By Rep. Dan Newhouse (WA-04) and Rep. Harriet Hageman (WY-AL)

This piece was originally published in The Hill.

Who thinks it would be a good idea to give China, Russia or Iran the authority to block energy, food and mineral production on United States land? No one in their right mind, that’s for sure, but naturally the Biden administration tried. Fortunately, they failed, but this is a cautionary tale of why we must constantly remain vigilant and make sure the Biden administration isn’t abusing its authority in their war on domestic energy production.

The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) recently attempted to list Natural Asset Companies (NACs) — entities that aren’t designed to make a profit but would be used instead to control our public and private property rights while also manipulating policy based on ‘climate change’ doomsday scenarios.

On Oct. 4, 2023, the Biden administration’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) noticed a proposed rule change to approve the NYSE’s listing of NACs. This proposal was complex and based on a nontraditional investing mechanism of questionable legality that would allow for the buying and selling of undefined “rights” to certain private and public lands, including to foreign nations and noncitizens, in order to terminate and prevent all economic activity on such properties. Once in control of the land, NACs would be prohibited from engaging in so-called “unsustainable activities,” which would include fossil fuel development, mining, logging and grazing. The proposal explains that all of this is necessary because radical environmental policies are not moving fast enough — ESG investing is just moving too doggone slow!

The SEC’s proposal would have fundamentally changed land access, management, use and ownership as we know it in this country, especially in the interior west. If NACs were publicly traded on the NYSE, the money they raise would be used to block the use of land for all activities — and there will be no restrictions on who — or what country — can buy them. In fact, foreign nations (think: China, Russia, Iran and other bad actors) would be free to participate and shut down energy, food and mineral production on American land that they would control. This is, unfortunately, not an exaggeration.

It’s also true that the lands in question may very well be located near sensitive sites like military bases, thus threatening our national security in even more direct ways than controlling our food and energy supplies. We have already seen China steal American intellectual property, manipulate their own markets, and spy on us from Alaska to South Carolina (e.g., the Chinese spy balloon). Iranians, meanwhile, routinely chant “death to America.” Yet, this administration is fine with these rogue states owning our most precious natural assets while blocking American citizens and businesses from accessing, managing, and using such lands and related resources. It is insanity.

The federal government owns 48 percent of the surface estate of Wyoming, 28 percent of the surface estate in Washington state, and an even higher percentage in many other states across the West. These lands are vital for energy production, trona operations, mining, livestock grazing, transmission lines, logging, farming, food production, hunting and recreation — and they have been used in these ways for practically as long as humans have walked upright. If such uses are halted, it will forever prevent American energy independence, drive family-run livestock and farming operations out of business, and increase the cost of everything related to lumber, such as housing, industrial development and furniture. This is part of a familiar pattern of behavior from this administration where they limit resource supply as a handout to extreme environmentalists, with the obscene cost of these actions unlikely to hit Americans until they are out of office.

It is rare for the federal government to part with any of the property that it owns (which belongs to the people, really). So, we must ask:  why is it so willing to sell such rights now, and why only to NACs that are solely tasked with taking these lands out of productive use, blocking all future access and use, and undermining our energy and food independence? We think we know the answer to that question — it is yet another mechanism by which to cripple our country and make Americans more dependent on the government we pay for, while denying access to our own abundant, clean and affordable resources. It is unacceptable that the administration seeks to implement policies that are designed to increase the costs of food, fuel and shelter. NACs will do just that — and they should be seen for the toxic burning pile of detritus that they are. 

Finally, even if there were great public support for this scheme, which there was not, the SEC still has no power to manage federal lands or sell our legacy to foreign governments, making NACs blatantly unconstitutional.

Fortunately, the Western Caucus Members in Congress and concerned citizens across this country were paying attention and stopped this dangerous proposal dead in its tracks. Rep. Hageman, joined by Chairman Newhouse, led 30 of their colleagues demanding an extension of the comment period and answers to the many flaws in the proposal. The extension of the comment period allowed over 2,000 Americans to weigh in with their opposition to the list of NACs. Rep. Hageman also submitted extensive comments to the SEC exposing many of the legal and policy disasters associated with NACs, and on Jan. 17, the day before the public comment period for the rule was due to close, Chairman Newhouse and Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) sent a letter to the SEC demanding the agency withdraw their rule. Additionally, thousands of concerned Americans submitted comments to the SEC opposing the proposal. Given this robust opposition, the NYSE withdrew its proposal on the evening of Jan. 17

While we dodged a bullet on Natural Asset Companies, this example proves that accountability matters. The Biden administration is desperate to pander to the extreme environmental mob — and the sacrifice they offered was control of those lands that belong to all of us — both public and private — as well as the national, energy and food security that goes with them. We employed every tool possible — from using the power of Congress to the court of public opinion — to stop the creation of NACs now, and we must continue to fight to ensure this proposal remains defeated forever.

Dan Newhouse represents Washington’s 4th District and serves as Chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus.

Harriet Hageman is the lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Wyoming.

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