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Scalise: Broad GOP energy package to House floor this month

Bills would ease regulation, speed project permitting and support liquid natural gas exports

Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., has shepherded many of the bills through the Natural Resources Committee he chairs.
Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., has shepherded many of the bills through the Natural Resources Committee he chairs. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House will take up legislation on energy issues during the last week of March, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said Wednesday.

Scalise, R-La., did not say what bills would be included in the bunch, though both the House Natural Resources and the Energy and Commerce committees have markups Thursday.

Bills scheduled for markup Thursday include legislation by Natural Resourcs Chairman Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., that would speed federal permitting approvals and narrow environmental regulation, and bills to support liquefied gas exports, pipeline construction, domestic mining and to ban moratoria on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a type of drilling.

The House majority leader said the set of bills would “show the country how we can be energy independent again and lower costs for those hard-working families who are struggling.”

House Republicans are keen to use their newfound status in the majority to expand domestic fossil fuel production, pass legislation to ramp up the export of LNG and chip into the Biden administration’s environmental agenda.

[Westerman sees bipartisan path for permitting overhaul]

After the House passed a resolution to disapprove of a Labor Department rule to allow retirement plans to consider environmental, social and governance factors, otherwise known as ESG criteria, in their investment decisions, the Senate voted 50-46 to clear the measure for President Joe Biden’s expected veto.

Many of the Republican energy bills percolating in the House are unlikely to draw support in the Democratic-held Senate, such as a measure from Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., that would ban any future federal prohibition against fracking.

During the first Energy and Commerce hearing this Congress, Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, chairman of the newly named Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials Subcommittee, said American companies should be extracting more gas from the ground.

“Global demand is booming,” Johnson said. “We should want the world to rely more on us for natural gas, not the other way around.”

Permian Basin

Both Energy and Commerce and Westerman’s committee held field hearings in February in Midland, Texas, part of the Permian Basin, an oil patch of west Texas known for methane flaring and robust oil production. 

Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, who represents the area, said the Biden administration should support more drilling in places like the Permian as sources of national and energy security. 

[Republicans see conflict in Biden push for critical minerals]

“The fact is that the Permian Basin is the largest secure supply of oil and gas in the entire world and remains a safe harbor of stability and opportunity,” Pfluger said.

His bill to repeal a methane program that the new climate, health and tax law created to press oil and gas companies to limit their flaring of the potent greenhouse gas is scheduled to get a vote in the Energy and Commerce markup Thursday.

Legislation from Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Ala., to cut funding for a national green bank, which received $27 billion under the law, will also get a vote, as will a bill from Johnson to expand LNG production.

Bills from Rep. Greg Pence, R-Ind., and Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter, R-Ga., about critical minerals, which are found in modern digital technology like automobiles, computers and phones, will also get votes.

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