US House starts work on permitting package

  • Market: Crude oil, Emissions, Natural gas
  • 02/28/23

Republicans in the US House of Representatives today began debate on nearly two-dozen energy and permitting bills that could serve as their opening bid for a bipartisan deal later this year.

Republicans today are holding five hearings at three different House committees on bills that seek to fast-track permitting, expand federal oil and gas leasing and remove most climate-related analysis from federal environmental reviews. The flurry of committee work aligns with a goal by Republicans to bring a combined bill to the House floor in the coming months.

"We cannot achieve the full benefits of an American energy expansion without reforms like these," House Energy and Commerce Committee chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington) said at the start of a hearing on nine bills. "This is a solid start to our energy agenda."

The sweeping changes sought by Republicans have little chance of becoming law, given the likely opposition from President Joe Biden and Democrats who hold the US Senate. But Republicans believe passing legislation can strengthen their hand on permitting ahead of potential negotiations with Democrats, who are looking for ways to speed the use of $369bn in climate-related spending from last year's Inflation Reduction Act.

Faster permitting "is something that both sides of the aisle want," US representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) said at an event held by the nonprofit Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

Republicans are seeking to use legislation to reverse Biden's restrictions on fossil fuel production, seeking a mandate to hold quarterly oil and gas lease sales in nine states and twice-a-year lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico. They want to relax environmental reviews for drilling on federal land and make it harder to challenge that development in court. Republicans also want to ease the regulatory thresholds to approve US LNG export facilities and allow cross-border energy projects like the canceled 830,000 b/d Keystone XL pipeline.

Democrats say the legislation reads like an industry "wish list" that would undermine efforts to address climate change and make it harder for marginalized groups to have a say in nearby development. They are also alarmed at deep changes proposed to the National Environmental Policy Act, including a push to eliminate the federal analysis of the climate-related effects of burning fossil fuels.

"These bills seek to gut these processes, just so dirty energy projects can start producing profits a lot faster," House Natural Resources Committee ranking member Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) said.

Oil industry groups back much of the legislation drafted by Republicans. A bill under consideration in the House Committee on Natural Resources would give certainty to industry and "ultimately lead to a more streamlined process" for federal oil and gas development, Independent Petroleum Association of America chief operating officer Dan Naatz said at the hearing.

Democrats made some progress on permitting legislation last year, with US senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) getting bipartisan support for a bill to expedite permitting, speed electric transmission approval and approve the $6.6bn Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline. Manchin is likely to play a role on potential permitting negotiations again this year as head of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.


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