House passes GOP energy bill
Bill faces a tough reception in the Senate, where some lawmakers hope for a deal on a permitting overhaul
The House on Thursday passed energy, permitting and infrastructure legislation that Republicans have described as a top priority, drawing support from a handful of Democrats on a 225-204 vote.
Addressing reporters after passage, Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the bill would trigger investment domestically if it became law.
“We can produce our own energy, all of the above, here in America,” McCarthy said.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said this week the bill has no future in his chamber, and some House Republicans have said the bill must be changed to reach a bipartisan deal this Congress on federal permitting.
The White House said this week that if he received the bill, President Joe Biden would veto the legislation.
Democrats Jared Golden of Maine, Henry Cuellar of Texas, Vicente Gonzalez of Texas and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington voted for the bill, while Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., voted against it.
Passage comes a little more than a week after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading body of climate scientists, warned humanity must work swiftly to slash greenhouse gas emissions and stop burning fossil fuels to avert catastrophic rapid climate change.
The U.S. produces more oil than any other nation.
Central in the bill is language that would repeal several climate programs in the 2022 climate, health and tax law, including a $4.5 billion home electrification rebate program, an EPA program to build out national green banking to support emission-reduction efforts and a methane program that would charge fossil energy companies for emitting the highly potent greenhouse gas.
The legislation passed Thursday requires the Interior Department to complete quarterly lease sales of oil and gas, lift a moratorium on coal leasing on federal land and prohibit the president from declaring a national ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Republicans such as the bill sponsor, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., have blamed the electrification program for increases in electricity costs, but that program is not slated to start until 2024.
The bill would accelerate the permitting process under the National Environmental Policy Act, mandate more oil and gas lease sales and support the export of liquefied natural gas, or LNG.
Republicans said the bill would lower emissions by sending LNG abroad to offset foreign-made oil and gas, including fuels from Russia, known for a leaky oil and gas system that bleeds methane into the air.
Much of the debate this week trickled into political grievances over the role of fossil fuels in American society and politics.
“Our constituents don’t want to be forced to drive a Prius,” said Rep. Mark Alford, R-Mo.
Calling Republicans the “servants” of fossil fuel companies, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., said the bill would undermine public health and financially aid oil and gas companies. The bill would lower royalty rates for extraction on federal lands.
Referencing recent remarks by U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said, “This bill … drags us backward.”
“‘Humanity is on thin ice, and that ice is melting fast,” Guterres said March 20. “Our world needs climate action on all fronts, everything, everywhere, all at once.”
The IPCC warned in its report humans have fleeting time to avert rapid climate change that will soon become irretrievable and generate “increasingly irreversible losses” in critical natural ecosystems.
The NEPA law is a critical stumbling block that will thwart the Biden administration from carrying out its climate agenda by slowing the completion of clean energy projects, Republicans said.
The bill “streamlines the federal permitting process for all industries,” Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón, R-P.R., said. “These commonsense reforms will provide the necessary certainty so projects across the nation are carried out in a timely manner without sacrificing our environmental standards which are the most robust in the world.”
Democrats responded that a dearth of federal workers to process permits is behind sluggish approval for infrastructure projects, adding that $1 billion from the 2022 climate law was set aside to hire workers to fill those posts.
Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., who has been vocal about achieving bipartisan compromise on permitting this Congress, said electric transmission must be a priority, adding that the bill had some decent elements.
“I am more than willing to admit that NEPA, a law from 1970, can be updated to meet today’s challenges," Peters said. "In fact, clean energy permit reform is required to meet our climate goals, but this proposal fails to match the scale of our climate challenge.”