House GOP’s energy package slammed as harmful 'giveaway to Big Oil'
As House Republicans prepare to vote on H.R. 1 this week, environmental advocates warned Monday that the sprawling package of fossil fuel-friendly legislation would worsen the climate emergency and biodiversity destruction while saddling U.S. households with higher energy bills.
H.R. 1, misleadingly titled the "Lower Energy Costs Act" and dubbed the "Polluters Over People Act" by opponents, consists of 15 separate bills and a pair of resolutions. As GOP lawmakers made clear at a legislative hearing held last month and through recent amendments, they're seeking to dismantle a wide range of regulations to boost fossil fuel production and exports despite scientists' unequivocal warnings about the need to prohibit new coal, oil, and gas projects to avert the worst effects of the climate crisis.
Environment America explained Monday that if approved, the sweeping proposal introduced earlier this month by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) would, among other things:
- Expand oil and gas drilling on public lands and in the ocean;
- Speed the construction of polluting projects, including gas pipelines, while limiting the ability of the public, private landowners, and states to weigh in;
- Expand mining without requiring companies to clean up or compensate communities for toxic mining waste;
- Exempt many sources of pollution, including petroleum refineries, from some Clean Air Act and hazardous waste requirements;
- Undo bipartisan reforms to the Toxic Substances Control Act;
- Lower the rates companies must pay for extraction on public lands and allow non-competitive lease sales; and
- Repeal programs that cut energy waste, including the Methane Emissions Reduction Program and rebates for energy-efficient and electric home appliances.
"This bill leads America in so many wrong directions at once, it's making me dizzy," said Lisa Frank, executive director of Environment America's Washington, D.C. legislative office.
"Instead of protecting the great American outdoors, it gives our public lands away to oil, mining, and gas companies," Frank pointed out. "Instead of cleaning up toxic pollution, it guarantees more drilling and more spilling, on land and in our oceans. And instead of slowing climate change or helping Americans save energy, it increases our dependence on dirty, expensive fuels."
"It's 2023. We have so many better options available to us, from the sun shining down on our roofs to the wind blowing off our shores and across our plains," she added. "Congress should reject this outdated and unnecessary push to sacrifice our lands, waters, and health in the name of energy production."
Included in the package is a resolution "expressing the sense of Congress that the federal government should not impose any restrictions on the export of crude oil or other petroleum products" and a bill that would "repeal all restrictions on the import and export of natural gas."
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.)—chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Energy, Climate, and Grid Security—argued last month that such measures are necessary because President Joe Biden and Democrats on the panel "have advocated for reinstating the crude oil export ban" that was originally enacted in 1975 and rescinded by congressional Republicans and then-President Barack Obama in 2015.
Last year, the Biden administration suggested—but never followed through on—resurrecting the federal ban on crude exports, a move that progressive advocacy groups urged the White House to make to bring down U.S. fuel prices.
While Duncan insisted that "lifting the export ban... has lowered prices," research demonstrates that precisely the opposite has occurred.
Since 2015, oil and gas production in the Permian Basin has surged while domestic consumption has remained steady, triggering a huge build-out of pipelines and other infrastructure that has turned the U.S. into the world's top exporter of fracked gas—intensifying planet-heating emissions, harming vulnerable Gulf Coast communities already overburdened by pollution, and exacerbating pain at the pump.
Matt Casale of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) said Monday that H.R. 1 "hands taxpayers the bill for expanded fossil fuel extraction and toxic waste clean-up, takes resources away from global warming solutions, and limits Americans' freedom to save energy in their own homes."
"Given how unpopular its provisions are, it's not surprising H.R. 1's authors also seek to limit public input and legal challenges to wrongheaded energy projects," said Casale, who directs PIRG's environmental campaigns.
"Our over-reliance on fossil fuels continues to hold us all over a barrel," he continued. "This bill looks for short-term fixes by doubling down on the energy sources of the past but contains more hidden costs that we can count, including more energy waste, more pollution, and a more dangerous future for our kids and grandkids. To protect ourselves now and in the future, we need to think beyond short-term solutions and take steps to end our fossil fuel dependence once and for all."
"To protect ourselves now and in the future, we need to think beyond short-term solutions and take steps to end our fossil fuel dependence once and for all."
Much to the chagrin of voters who put him in office, Biden has not been an enemy of the fossil fuel industry. His administration approved more permits for oil and gas drilling on public lands in its first two years than the Trump administration did in 2017 and 2018. Just two weeks ago, the White House ignored the scientists it claims to respect and rubber-stamped ConocoPhillips' massive Willow oil project.
Nevertheless, H.R. 1 even includes a resolution expressing disapproval of Biden's 2021 decision to revoke the presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline―part of the GOP's push to blame what they deride as "rush-to-green energy policies" for skyrocketing gas prices, a narrative that obscures Big Oil's profiteering amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, as the GOP's deficit hawks threaten to withhold their support for raising the nation's debt limit unless Biden agrees to devastating social spending cuts, the Congressional Budget Office found that H.R. 1 would increase the federal deficit by $2.4 billion from 2023 to 2033.
Given that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has described H.R. 1 as "dead-on-arrival," it's unlikely the legislation will reach Biden's desk. If it does, however, Biden vowed Monday to veto it.
The GOP's energy package would replace "pro-consumer policies with a thinly veiled license to pollute," the White House said in a statement. "It would raise costs for American families by repealing household energy rebates and rolling back historic investments to increase access to cost-lowering clean energy technologies. Instead of protecting American consumers, it would pad oil and gas company profits—already at record levels—and undercut our public health and environment."
"H.R. 1," the White House added, "would take us backward."
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