House Republicans introduced legislation on Tuesday to make increasing domestic energy production their top legislative priority, saying it will combat rising costs and address national security concerns.
Dubbed the Lower Energy Costs Act and awarded the coveted bill number of H.R. 1, the measure from House Majority Leader Steve Scalise consists of dozens of proposals centered on rolling back environmental regulations to increase fossil fuel production.
The proposal, which House Republicans plan to pass later this month, marks a stark contrast from President Biden’s climate agenda. Supporters say the bill’s central purpose — to streamline the approval process for energy projects of all forms — would also offer a major boost for clean energy.
“We will show the country how to end the war on American energy, become energy independent again, and lower costs for hard-working families who are struggling under the weight of President Biden’s radical agenda,” said Mr. Scalise, a Republican who hails from the energy-rich state of Louisiana.
The package has been months in the making but is dead on arrival in the Democratic-run Senate, not to mention with Mr. Biden. Democrats have blasted the proposal as a “polluter giveaway bill to fast-track dirty energy.”
However, House Republicans hope to use the legislation once it’s passed the chamber to breathe new life into bipartisan energy talks already occurring with Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Rep. Scott Peters of California.
Republicans feel the legislative pitch is good politics and policy that comes as Mr. Biden prepares to announce his reelection campaign with prices at the pump roughly 40% higher than the day he took office. Perhaps as a sign of the political pressure, Mr. Biden gave the green light this week to an $8 billion oil project known as Willow on federal land in Alaska, drawing scathing rebukes from climate activists.
In a video statement promoting the GOP energy package, Speaker Kevin McCarthy described the bill as Republicans’ “top legislative priority that has a real shot at becoming law.”
“Every time we need a pipeline, road, or dam, an average of almost five years and millions of dollars in costs get added to the project to comply with Washington’s permitting process.
That’s too long,” the California Republican said. “We can streamline permitting and still protect the environment. That’s a goal worthy of the number 1.”
The GOP package would accelerate the approval process for mining and energy projects — renewable and fossil fuel alike; slash environmental regulations; lift restrictions on liquefied natural gas imports and exports; prohibit a ban on the natural gas-drilling practice called fracking; prevent states from blocking interstate energy projects like pipelines; greenlight more oil and gas drilling on federal lands; and repeal billions in natural gas taxes and funds for the Environmental Protection Agency.
The proposal would also amend the National Environmental Policy Act, the legal bedrock of current environmental law, and cap judicial review periods for lawsuits to speed up energy projects. NEPA critics — including some Democrats — say the law is outdated and ties up fossil-fuel and clean-energy projects in years of red tape and litigation that can cost millions of dollars.
“I’ll say it over and over — I don’t know if you all will write it — but we are not gutting NEPA,” House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman, Arkansas Republican, recently told reporters. “We’re making NEPA work. We are streamlining it. We’re going to go through the process, we just have to have a process that actually works.”
The legislation would cap NEPA reviews at one year for environmental assessments and two years for environmental impact statements, in addition to imposing a 120-day deadline for filing litigation for energy and mining projects.
Speeding up mining projects for critical minerals, which are used in electric vehicle batteries, would wean the U.S. off its dependency on China and complement the $370 billion Democrats pushed through last year for clean energy in their tax-and-climate spending law known as the Inflation Reduction Act.
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