After a relatively quiet year on the energy and environment front, House Republicans are again revving up attacks on President Obama’s policies for energy development, this time with a pair of bills that would chip away at the administration’s authority over oil and gas production on federal lands.
Much of the debate scheduled for the House floor Wednesday will focus on legislation sponsored by Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, to block the Interior Department from regulating fracking on public lands where state regulations are already on the books.
Ahead of Wednesday’s debate, supporters of the measure framed it as an attempt to ward off a regulatory regime that would prove harmful to the domestic oil and gas boom.
“We have a shale-energy revolution in this country and the federal government shouldn’t be doing anything to jeopardize that,” Flores told National Journal Daily. “This bill would put the power to regulate back into the hands of the people who do it best — the states.”
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., similarly painted the legislation as an attempt to block the administration from slowing oil and natural-gas production.
“Imposing a “˜one-size-fits-all’ federal regulation on hydraulic fracturing would add costly and duplicative layers of red tape that would only stand in the way of increased American energy production,” Hastings said.
The legislation is expected to pass but is not likely to win many Democratic votes. “I will not be supporting this bill,” Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., commented ahead of the vote. “The Obama administration has proposed reasonable regulations for hydraulic fracturing, and they should be allowed to go forward.”
Critics of the measure point out that Interior regulations, which would only apply to federal lands, are not likely to have a significant impact on domestic production given that the bulk of drilling activity currently takes place on state and private lands.
The House will also vote Wednesday on legislation sponsored by Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., that would speed up the time it takes for companies to receive a permit to drill on federal lands and open up more federal lands to drilling.
The votes come as part of a broader standoff between House Republicans and the president over who has done more to help the domestic surge in oil and natural-gas production. Obama claimed in his weekly address on Saturday that the rise in production should be attributed, in part, to the administration’s support for new technologies.
For, now, however, the rhetoric is mostly symbolic. The bills are not expected to gain traction in the Senate, and the White House announced Tuesday that the president would likely veto the legislation in the event of final passage.
Democrats called the debate on the bills Wednesday a waste of time. “This will never go anywhere,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. “So we’ll burn up a day now that we could be using to do something meaningful like pass an appropriations bill or deal with a whole range of issues that aren’t particularly partisan or controversial. Instead, we’re treading water.”
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., referred to the bills as “the fiddle on which we are playing while Rome is burning,” since Congress has yet to finish work on the budget, the farm bill, an immigration bill, and other pressing issues.
What We're Following See More »
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: "One of the things that I’m hoping, I and my colleagues have been trying to convince Senator Marco Rubio to run again in Florida. He had indicated he was not going to, but we’re all hoping that he’ll reconsider, because poll data indicates that he is the one who can win for us. He would not only save a terrific senator for the Senate, but help save the majority. ... Well, I hope so. We’re all lobbying hard for him to run again."
Former Attorney General Eric Holder said that NSA leaker Edward Snowden "actually performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made" by releasing information about government surveillance. Holder, a guest on David Axelrod's "Axe Files" podcast, also said Snowden endangered American interests and should face consequences for his actions.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, needing an improbable comeback to take the nomination from Hillary Clinton, showed up to the Warriors' Game 7 in Oakland during a break in California campaigning. "Let's turn this thing around," he told the San Francisco Chronicle's Joe Garofoli.
Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”