House GOP Approves Bill to ‘Unleash’ American Energy

House GOP Approves Bill to ‘Unleash’ American Energy

By MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans on Thursday approved a sprawling energy package that seeks to undo virtually all of President Joe Biden’s agenda to address climate change.

The legislation would sharply increase domestic production of oil, natural gas, and coal, and ease permitting restrictions that delay pipelines, refineries, and other projects. It would boost the production of critical minerals such as lithium, nickel, and cobalt that are used in electric vehicles, computers, cell phones, and other products.

By a 225-204 vote, the House sent the measure to the Senate, where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called it “dead on arrival.” Four Democrats joined with all but one Republican to support the bill.

Biden has threatened to veto the bill, saying it would replace “pro-consumer policies” adopted in the landmark climate law approved last year “with a thinly veiled license to pollute.” The bill would roll back Democratic investments in clean energy and ”pad oil and gas company profits,” the White House said.

Republicans call the bill the “Lower Energy Costs Act” and gave it the symbolic label H.R. 1 — the top legislative priority of the new GOP majority, which took control of the House in January.

The measure combines dozens of separate proposals and represents more than two years of work by Republicans who have chafed at Biden’s environmental agenda. They say Biden’s efforts have thwarted U.S. energy production and increased costs at the gas pump and grocery store.

“Families are struggling because of President Biden’s war on American energy,” said House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., one of the bill’s main authors.

The GOP bill will “unleash” abundant U.S. natural resources “so we can produce energy in America,” Scalise said. “We don’t have to be addicted to foreign countries that don’t like us.”

Democrats called the bill a giveaway to big oil companies.

“Republicans refuse to hold polluters accountable for the damage they cause to our air, our water, our communities and our climate,” said New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“While Democrats delivered historic wins for the American people by passing historic climate legislation, Republicans are actively working to undermine that progress and do the bidding of their polluter friends,″ Pallone said.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the bill “restores American energy leadership by repealing unnecessary taxes and overregulation on American energy producers,” and “makes it easier to build things in America” by placing a two-year time limit on environmental reviews that now take an average of seven years.

“Every time we need a pipeline, a road or a dam, it gets held up five to seven years and adds millions of dollars in costs for the project to comply with Washington’s permitting process,” McCarthy said in a speech on the House floor. “It’s too long, it’s unaffordable, it’s not based on science and it’s holding us back.”

He pointed to a project to modify and improve Lake Isabella Dam in his central California district that has lasted 18 years and still is not completed.

“Permitting reform isn’t for everyone,” McCarthy added. “If you like paying more at the pump, you don’t want to make it faster for American workers to build more pipelines. If you’re China, you’d rather America sit back and let others lead. And if you’re a bureaucrat, maybe you really do enjoy reading the 600-page environmental impact studies.”

Most Americans want lower prices and more U.S. energy production, McCarthy said — results he said the bill will deliver.

Democrats called that misleading and said the GOP plan was a thinly disguised effort to reward oil companies and other energy producers that have contributed millions of dollars to GOP campaigns.

Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, derided the bill as the “Polluters Over People Act” and “a nearly 200-page love letter to polluting industries.”

Instead of reining in “Big Oil” companies that have reported record profits while “hoarding thousands of unused leases” on public lands and waters, the GOP bill lowers royalty rates paid by energy producers and reinstates noncompetitive leasing of public lands, Grijalva said.

The bill also gives mining companies “a veritable free-for-all on our public lands” and “makes mockery of tribal consultation” required under federal law, he said.

Under the GOP plan, mining companies will “destroy sacred and special places” throughout the West, “ruin the landscape and leave behind a toxic mess that pollutes our water and hurts our health — all without paying a cent to the American people,” Grijalva said.

Schumer called the measure “a giveaway to Big Oil pretending to be an energy package.”

The House energy package “would gut important environmental safeguards on fossil fuel projects,” locking America “into expensive, erratic and dirty energy sources while setting us back more than a decade on our transition to clean energy,” Schumer said.

Schumer said he supports streamlining the nation’s cumbersome permitting process for energy projects, especially those that will deliver “clean energy” such as wind, solar and geothermal power. “But the Republican plan falls woefully short on this front as well,” he said, calling on Republicans to back reforms that would help ease the transition to renewable energy and accelerate construction of transmission lines to bolster the nation’s aging power grid.

Schumer and other Democrats said the Republican bill would repeal a new $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and other parts of the climate and health care law passed by Democrats last year. The bill also would eliminate a new tax on methane pollution.

Four Democrats voted in favor of the bill: Reps. Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzales of Texas, Jared Golden of Maine and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington state. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., opposed the bill.

Industry associations chimed in about the passage, which now goes to the Senate:

NAHB’s chairman and a custom home builder and developer from Birmingham, Ala., Alicia Huey, stated: “House passage of the Lower Energy Costs Act will help housing affordability by repealing a section of the Inflation Reduction Act that provides $1 billion to pressure state and local governments to adopt costly and restrictive energy codes. While NAHB supports the adoption of cost-effective, modern energy codes, forcing the adoption of costly energy codes to qualify for these grants would raise housing costs and limit energy choices for consumers.”

Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) said: “ABC thanks lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who acted today to lower energy costs and cut red tape for American families, small businesses and the contracting community,” said Kristen Swearingen, ABC vice president of legislative & political affairs. “The construction industry is facing significant economic challenges, with many businesses having trouble finding affordable and available building materials, due in part to persistently elevated costs. ABC analysis finds that overall construction input prices are nearly 40% higher than in February 2020, with energy commodities leading all categories: crude petroleum (+63.5%), natural gas (+68.9%) and unprocessed energy materials (+76.3%).

“In addition to lowering energy costs, H.R. 1 contains several commonsense permitting reforms, including the ABC-supported BUILDER Act, which will go a long way toward eliminating unnecessary delays that cause construction budget overruns,” said Swearingen. “In order to deliver work safely, ethically and economically, ABC contractor members count on a coordinated, predictable and transparent permitting process; H.R. 1 enables the industry to plan and execute key projects nationwide while safeguarding our communities, maintaining a healthy environment and stewarding public funds properly.”

Finally, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO Jay Timmons released the following statement:

“America’s economy, our institutions and our values are being challenged by threats from around the world, which means now is the time to strengthen our energy security and expand domestic manufacturing—both to reduce our dependence on bad actors and to ensure we can support our allies. This bipartisan action to modernize permitting reform would help us achieve these goals by speeding up critical energy, infrastructure and manufacturing investments while we continue our commitment to environmental stewardship,” said Timmons. “I am in Europe right now, witnessing firsthand the consequences of being overly reliant on a country like Russia for energy. In the 21st century, there’s no excuse for letting job-creating projects languish for years to get bureaucratic approval. The Lower Energy Costs Act will bolster manufacturers’ competitiveness in America while also bringing relief to American families and businesses. We thank Speaker McCarthy, Majority Leader Scalise and Majority Whip Emmer for designating this bill as their top priority and for their focus on ensuring our industry can continue providing the leadership our country and our world need.”


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    Mark Cook March 31, 2023 / 1:00 pm


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