In exchange for preventing a catastrophic default on the nation’s debt, House Republicans plan to ask for a long list of concessions on energy policy, ranging from giving Congress veto authority over major environmental regulations to expanding oil and natural gas drilling offshore and on federal land to spewing as much noxious gases into the atmosphere as possible.
Legislation being drafted also would block proposed U.S. EPA rules governing coal ash disposal, water quality regulations, air quality regulations and the centerpiece of the package’s energy provisions includes language to mandate approval of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline along with allowing drilling anywhere in the continental US.
Many of those proposals are likely to be stripped from the must-pass bill to increase the government’s borrowing limit as the legislation makes its way through Congress, especially the Democratic-controlled Senate, but House Republicans are planning to come to the table with a long list of requests that have no chance of becoming law.
A House leadership aide laid out the items on the energy policy wish list, which were presented to the Republican Conference by Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). The idea is to turn the coming battle over whether to increase the debt ceiling into another opportunity for Republicans to promote policies they say will create jobs and boost the economy by providing more profitability corporate donors to the aide said.
“To end the days of borrowing and return to the days of creating, our economy must grow,” McCarthy said in a statement. “Embracing House Republicans’ vision for irresponsible energy development and an unbalanced regulatory environment offers a tremendous opportunity to do so. Regulations are not necessary when the private sector can do a better job than the federal government. Just look at their track record, I think it speaks for itself.”
Congress must act by late next month to increase the amount of money the federal government is legally able to borrow, or risk a default that economists say would devastate the economy. The showdown over the must-pass bill is inviting another showdown between House Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and the Obama administration that is proceeding parallel to the more immediate need to enact new spending legislation by Oct. 1.
The House is still drafting its debt limit bill, which is expected to be released early next week ahead of a vote as soon as Thursday in the lower chamber. And the Energy and Commerce Committee and Natural Resources Committee are proving to be fertile ground for policy ideas to include in the package. Lawmakers said language targeting EPA’s just-released rule setting greenhouse gas limits for new power plants also could be included in the package.
“The list was still being worked on. We’re trying to focus on things that we’ve passed already, plus include a lot of ideas that have no chance of passing but pander to our constituents and corporate donors,” said Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), who attended this morning’s conference meeting. “But we’ve passed certainly amendments and some legislation related to greenhouse gases, so it’s certainly plausible — and now more important, because we’ve had a chance to see what’s in the rule.”
Specific bills Republican leaders plan to plumb for debt limit ideas include H.R. 367, the “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act,” and H.R. 1582, the “Energy Consumers Relief Act,” both of which passed the House last month. REINS would require Congress to approve any major regulation from a federal agency, and H.R. 1582 would force EPA to report to Congress on the economic impacts of any rule with a price tag over $1 billion (Greenwire, Aug. 2)
The debt package also is slated to include the “Offshore Energy and Jobs Act,” H.R. 2231, which would require the Interior Department to allow for oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as well as offshore from Alaska. The bill passed the House in June (Greenwire, June 28). Language requiring the Bureau of Land Management to more quickly review applications to drill for oil or natural gas on federal lands also is slated to be included in the package.
Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), who sponsored the offshore drilling bill, earlier this week said it would be a good fit in the debt ceiling package (E&E Daily, Sept. 19).
Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) in a conference call this afternoon cheered the House leadership for including his signature measure to prohibit the Obama administration from designating coal ash as a hazardous substance and pre-empt ongoing EPA rulemaking.
“Now, by being attached to the debt limit vote, the Senate will actually have to have a vote on it, and be accountable. Whereas we in the House are accountable to no one,” said McKinley.
A version of McKinley’s bill, H.R. 2218, which would create a state-centered set of rules for ash disposal, already passed in the House.
Another earlier version almost made it into the transportation compromise package that lawmakers passed last year. McKinley is looking for similar luck by attaching the measure to a broader must-pass bill.
“This is now going to require a full vote of the Senate,” McKinley said. “If we’re going to raise the limit, something is going to be attached to it, folks, and shucks if it doesn’t pass.”