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Elly Pepper’s Blog

House Energy Bill Announcement: Tainted Wine in a New Bottle

Elly Pepper

Posted June 6, 2012 in Moving Beyond Oil, Saving Wildlife and WIld Places, U.S. Law and Policy

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House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) today introduced the “Domestic Energy and Jobs Act” (H.R. 4480) – the House Republicans’ latest “energy policy,” which is really just several existing destructive bills combined into one package.  It’s worse than old wine in new bottles; they’re pouring all their tainted wine into a single jug.  House Republicans continue to work to push the country backward; these bills use gas prices as a pretext to undermine longstanding protections that have little, if any, impact on the price of gas.  They continue to do this even as gas prices have been slipping downward, no thanks to any congressional GOP actions.

The package would weaken clean air protections and sacrifice our public lands and our oceans to unabated energy production.

It includes Rep. Whitfield's (R-KY) “Gas Regulations Act” (H.R. 4471), which would delay, perhaps indefinitely, limits on refinery emissions, standards for sulfur in gasoline, and new smog standards. Worse still, the bill would rewrite the Clean Air Act so that standards for widespread pollutants are no longer solely based on health.  None of these changes have any relationship to current gas prices, but they would all eventually result in more polluted air.

It also includes Rep. Gardner's (R-CO) “Strategic Energy Production Act” (H.R. 4480), which contains the absurd condition that any sale of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve be linked to the opening of federal lands and waters to new oil and gas drilling. 

Also added to the mix are a group of Natural Resources Committee bills—the "Planning for American Energy Act" (H.R. 4381), the "Providing Leasing Certainty for American Energy Act" (H.R. 4382), the "Streamlining Permitting of American Energy Act" (H.R. 4383), and the "National Petroleum Reserve Alaska Access Act" (H.R. 2150). These bills would force the Interior Department to essentially cede control of our public lands to the oil and gas industry, eliminate the public’s right participate in these decisions, and, ultimately, destroy or damage sensitive lands and wildlife habitat, including wilderness quality lands.  U.S. oil production has a limited if any effect on the world oil price, and of course, none of these bills would affect current prices in any event.   

Putting these bills together in one package should make it even clearer to the American public how hollow the House Republican rhetoric on gas prices is and how they continue to take a blunderbuss approach to destroying safeguards.  But it’s unfortunate legislative politics.  While each of these bills raises different issues about specific protections, combining them makes it harder to fully debate its contents and increases pressure on the Republican rank and file to vote yes on the whole package, regardless of their qualms about any element.

But there’s no hiding just how out of step the congressional GOP agenda is with the public’s desire for sensible protections and cleaner energy.  

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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