WASHINGTON – House Republicans on Thursday approved a sprawling energy package that seeks to undo virtually all of President Joe Biden's agenda to address climate change.
The legislation would sharply increase domestic production of oil, natural gas and coal, and ease permitting restrictions that delay pipelines, refineries and other projects. It would boost production of critical minerals such as lithium, nickel and cobalt that are used in electric vehicles, computers, cellphones and other products.
By a 225-204 vote, the House sent the measure to the Senate, where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called it “dead on arrival.” Four Democrats joined with all but one Republican to support the bill.
Biden has threatened to veto the bill, saying it would replace “pro-consumer policies” adopted in the landmark climate law approved last year “with a thinly veiled license to pollute.'' The bill would roll back Democratic investments in clean energy and ”pad oil and gas company profits,'' the White House said.
Republicans call the bill the “Lower Energy Costs Act” and gave it the symbolic label H.R. 1 — the top legislative priority of the new GOP majority, which took control of the House in January.
The measure combines dozens of separate proposals and represents more than two years of work by Republicans who have chafed at Biden's environmental agenda. They say Biden's efforts have thwarted U.S. energy production and increased costs at the gas pump and grocery store.
“Families are struggling because of President Biden's war on American energy,'' said House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., one of the bill's main authors.
The GOP bill will “unleash" abundant U.S. natural resources "so we can produce energy in America,'' Scalise said. “We don't have to be addicted to foreign countries that don't like us.''
Democrats called the bill a giveaway to big oil companies.
"Republicans refuse to hold polluters accountable for the damage they cause to our air, our water, our communities and our climate,'' said New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
“While Democrats delivered historic wins for the American people by passing historic climate legislation, Republicans are actively working to undermine that progress and do the bidding of their polluter friends,″ Pallone said.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the bill “restores American energy leadership by repealing unnecessary taxes and overregulation on American energy producers,'' and "makes it easier to build things in America'' by placing a two-year time limit on environmental reviews that now take an average of seven years.
“Every time we need a pipeline, a road or a dam, it gets held up five to seven years and adds millions of dollars in costs for the project to comply with Washington’s permitting process,'' McCarthy said in speech on the House floor. “It’s too long, it’s unaffordable, it’s not based on science and it’s holding us back.''
He pointed to a project to modify and improve Lake Isabella Dam in his central California district that has lasted 18 years and still is not completed.
“Permitting reform isn’t for everyone,'' McCarthy added. “If you like paying more at the pump, you don’t want to make it faster for American workers to build more pipelines. If you’re China, you’d rather America sit back and let others lead. And if you’re a bureaucrat, maybe you really do enjoy reading the 600-page environmental impact studies.''
Most Americans want lower prices and more U.S. energy production, McCarthy said — results he said the bill will deliver.
Democrats called that misleading and said the GOP plan was a thinly disguised effort to reward oil companies and other energy producers that have contributed millions of dollars to GOP campaigns.
Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, derided the bill as the “Polluters Over People Act'' and “a nearly 200-page love letter to polluting industries.''
Instead of reining in “Big Oil” companies that have reported record profits while “hoarding thousands of unused leases'' on public lands and waters, the GOP bill lowers royalty rates paid by energy producers and reinstates noncompetitive leasing of public lands, Grijalva said.
The bill also gives mining companies “a veritable free-for-all on our public lands” and “makes mockery of tribal consultation'' required under federal law, he said.
Under the GOP plan, mining companies will “destroy sacred and special places" throughout the West, "ruin the landscape and leave behind a toxic mess that pollutes our water and hurts our health — all without paying a cent to the American people,'' Grijalva said.
Schumer called the measure “a giveaway to Big Oil pretending to be an energy package.”
The House energy package “would gut important environmental safeguards on fossil fuel projects,'' locking America "into expensive, erratic and dirty energy sources while setting us back more than a decade on our transition to clean energy,'' Schumer said.
Schumer said he supports streamlining the nation's cumbersome permitting process for energy projects, especially those that will deliver “clean energy” such as wind, solar and geothermal power. “But the Republican plan falls woefully short on this front as well,'' he said, calling on Republicans to back reforms that would help ease the transition to renewable energy and accelerate construction of transmission lines to bolster the nation's aging power grid.
The Republican bill would repeal a new $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and other parts of the climate and health care law passed by Democrats last year. The fund, also known as a “green bank,” is set to provide low-cost financing for projects intended to cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.
The House bill also would eliminate a new tax on methane pollution that would charge companies for methane leaks from oil and gas wells.
Four Democrats voted in favor of the bill: Reps. Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzales of Texas, Jared Golden of Maine and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington state. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., opposed the bill.