Sweeping GOP energy bill would sweep away Biden’s climate agenda
Legislation in its entirety is unlikely to gain much traction in Senate, but permitting elements may be an exception
House Republicans unveiled legislation Tuesday to repeal a new methane emissions fee and "green bank" to spur low-carbon projects enacted under Democratic control last year, direct regulatory agencies to speed up the approval of energy projects, and more.
While the bill in its entirety is unlikely to win a majority in the Democrat-controlled Senate, it lays out a clear picture of Republican views on energy: less worry about the long-term dangers of global climate change and more determination that the U.S. should continue to harvest the near-term wealth and jobs made possible by its domestic fossil energy resources.
“This bill counters President Biden’s attack on our domestic energy and includes permitting reforms that will speed construction for major infrastructure projects across the country,” said Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., said the bill was a compilation of work from members on the Energy and Commerce Committee, the House Natural Resources Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
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According to a summary, the bill would also lift restrictions on the import and export of liquefied natural gas, eliminate royalties that companies pay to extract fossil fuels from federal land or waters and speed the approval of federal permits.
For example, for projects to get approval under federal permitting law, the bill would require regulatory agencies to complete environmental assessments within one year and environmental impact statements, which are more rigorous, within two years.
After proposals to rewrite America’s permitting laws fizzled last year, Scalise's bill is the first offering on permitting in the new Congress, following bills introduced in the fall by Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., and his home state peer, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.
Manchin moved to attach his permitting proposal to spending legislation and the annual defense policy bill last year, but those efforts crumbled.
The House is expected to vote on the bill, a broader set of energy, infrastructure, permitting and environmental elements, during the last week of March.
Although House Republicans’ bill will likely get little traction from congressional Democrats, it could draw buy-in from centrist members, like Manchin, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif.
Support for permitting
Texas Democrats like Lizzie Fletcher and Henry Cuellar have also spoken warmly about expanding the production of LNG. Fletcher last week introduced legislation to send LNG abroad to NATO member countries, as she did in the previous Congress.
Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., said last week he is in close contact with Manchin and Peters over the prospects of drafting federal permitting legislation this Congress.
Scalise said the public is interested in this sort of legislation.
“Voters gave Republicans the majority in Congress to stop this radical anti-American energy agenda and to take action that will lower prices, and House Republicans listened,” Scalise said.
The House Rules Committee set a deadline of 5 p.m. March 21 for amendments to the bill.
Included in the broader legislation is a measure from Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, to rescind a $6 billion federal program to lower methane emissions from drilling sites on federal lands, a provision the recent climate, tax and health care law created.
That law also provided $27 billion to create a so-called federal green bank to invest in low- and zero-carbon projects. That program, which the EPA is working on, would be repealed under the new bill.
The Republicans’ bill would also limit the scope of the Clean Water Act's Section 401, under which environmental groups and community organizations in Appalachia have sued the companies behind the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a gas pipeline that would bisect Virginia and West Virginia.
That section has been an obstacle to the completion of the pipeline, a focus of Manchin’s. His permitting bill in the last Congress would have approved the project.
Republicans chafed at the Biden administration after it missed a November deadline to issue a new five-year offshore energy production plan — a document that would cover 2023 through 2028.
The legislation filed Tuesday would mandate that the Interior Department publish a five-year plan and that it include oil and gas leasing.
The bill would also end a federal moratorium on the leasing of coal from federal land.
Heather Reams, president of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, a conservative group, said the legislation is part of a Republican plan to “invest in innovation, unlock domestic resources, and let America build to lower costs for families, enhance our national security and reduce global emissions.”
Meanwhile, Sara Chieffo, vice president of government affairs for the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental organization, took offense that the energy bill was given the prized title of the House’s first bill this Congress.
“It is especially atrocious for Republicans to reward this package with its most coveted slot of ‘H.R. 1,’” Chieffo said, contrasting it with the legislation Democrats introduced last Congress that included a series of reforms to federal campaigns, government activities, political disclosure and more.
“The contrast between Democrats’ policies for the people and House Republicans’ policies for polluters could not be more stark,” she said.