FIRST ON FOX: House Republicans on the Natural Resources Committee are probing the Biden administration over a proposal to open public lands to private ownership, a policy critics argue present an energy and national security risk.
Republican lawmakers, led by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., informed the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had opened an investigation into the agency’s controversial proposed rule change allowing for a new type of public company, so-called Natural Asset Companies (NACs), to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
NACs are a type of company that is chartered to “protect, restore and grow the natural assets under their management to foster healthy ecosystems,” according to the Intrinsic Exchange Group, which collaborated with the NYSE to develop the new corporate taxonomy. If finalized, the rule would allow NACs to be traded publicly.
“The Committee is deeply concerned with the potential impact NACs may have on the management of federal lands, effective conservation of wildlife habitat, and responsible development of natural resources,” the House Republicans wrote in their letter, which was addressed to SEC Chairman Gary Gensler and Haoxiang Zhu, the director of the SEC’s Division of Trading and Markets.
“Most notably, the proposed rule would allow private investment interests to control and manage national parks and other publicly owned lands — an unprecedented power-grab and usurpation of federal authority,” they continued. “This possibility is alarming, but, when coupled with the proposal’s arbitrary designations and ill-defined terms, it may prove calamitous to the statutory multiple-use mandates of federal lands and responsible development of America’s natural resources.”
Under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, Congress established the so-called “multiple-use” and sustained yield mandate. The law requires the Department of the Interior to open the lands it manages for various uses, including energy development, grazing, recreation and mining.
However, environmentalists have lobbied for the federal government to open lands up for conservation purposes, a move the Bureau of Land Management is actively pursuing and which would align with the SEC’s NAC proposal.
According to NYSE — which argues that NACs “capture the intrinsic and productive value of nature and provide a store of value based on the vital assets that underpin our entire economy and make life on earth possible” — natural assets that could be grouped into a NAC include forests, wetlands and coral reefs, as well as working lands such as farms.
But the Republicans further warned in their letter Thursday that activity on federal lands controlled by NACs will be “determined by the whims of eco-activists” rather than Congress or government scientists. And they said NACs could lead to the offshoring of energy production to countries with poor human rights and environmental records while opening the door to foreign ownership of public property.
“Additionally, as part of the Committee’s ongoing oversight of foreign interests that attempt to influence America’s environmental, natural resource, and energy policies, the Committee is concerned with allowing foreign investment into America’s most precious assets,” Westerman and the other lawmakers concluded.
“For example, allowing foreign interests to fund companies that will control public land and explicitly prohibit domestic mineral production is a surefire way to increase our nation’s critical mineral dependance while weakening America’s economic competitiveness, our national security and that of our allies,” they wrote. “This is unacceptable.”
The probe comes less than a month after the SEC agreed to delay its rulemaking on the issue and allow stakeholders more time to weigh in on the proposal. The delay was requested by Republican state financial officers from 22 states who requested a “reasonable public comment process,” instead of a rushed process.
Led by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach, a group of 25 attorneys general submitted comments with the SEC earlier this week, calling for the agency to rescind its NAC proposal.
“The recognition of national asset companies would be a disastrous development. It would violate multiple laws, would prohibit productive economic uses of relevant land, and would facilitate the effective takeover of public lands by private entities and foreign actors,” Kobach told Fox News Digital on Thursday. “We intend to prevent this from happening.”
“NACs present national security risks because foreign adversaries could invest in a NAC and lock up our natural resources,” added Utah State Treasurer Marlo Oaks. “This would lead to greater dependence on foreign countries for essential resources, to say nothing of the potential scarcity this might create.”
Oaks said that NACs would essentially “financialize” non-economic natural processes like photosynthesis and other life-giving processes.
In addition, Will Hild, the executive director of watchdog group Consumers’ Research, said NACs presented a series of dangers for Americans.
“It is hard to overstate the danger that so-called ‘natural asset companies’ pose to the livelihood of millions of Americans,” Hild told Fox News Digital. “Big woke corporations including BlackRock and foreign companies from hostile nations such as China would be handed free reign to buy up millions of acres of public land.”
“Ranching, farming, energy production and many other critical industries would be denied shared access to public land, eliminating their productive use,” he added. “Even people who use public lands for recreation and hunting could suddenly find their access taken away.”
The SEC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
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