House Republicans are preparing to pass a sweeping energy bill that Democrats, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York), have condemned as nothing more than a Big Oil wish list that would pilfer the public’s pockets to pad corporate profits.
H.R. 1, dubbed the Lower Energy Costs Act, is a combination of several Republican energy and climate proposals that would roll back provisions of Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) while expanding the ability of fossil fuel companies to mine and drill with even fewer regulations than they currently face.
In a speech on the House floor on Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez said that the bill’s title is misleading and that it contains basically no provisions to lower energy costs.
“The central argument and logic of this bill is that if you give big oil everything they want, then perhaps they will lower our gas prices. It’s a form of trickle-down fantasy that just will not make life easier for everyday Americans,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
She pointed out that, when Democrats put forth bills that would have directly addressed Big Oil price gouging and returned the industry’s profits to the public, Republicans opposed the suggestions — allowing Exxon, Chevron and others to post record profits in 2022.
Oil and gas companies “already have thousands of unused permits on public lands and yet they want even more. This is not a problem of supply, it is a problem of greed and abuse of market power,” said Ocasio-Cortez.
The bill reads “as if you gave a pen to an oil lobbyist and wrote down everything that they’d want,” she continued.
Indeed, H.R. 1, which Democrats have dubbed the “Polluters Over People Act,” is full of provisions that powerful oil organizations have lobbied for, in some cases for years.
The bill would repeal a methane reduction program created by the IRA, claw back funding from an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fund aimed at reducing greenhouse gasses and repeal the IRA’s reforms to the oil and gas leasing program. It would significantly water down the National Environmental Policy Act — a longtime foe of the fossil fuel industry and the nation’s oldest major environmental law — by placing strict limits on timelines for public input of proposed projects like pipelines or oil exploration.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has said that the bill would be “dead on arrival” in the Senate and President Joe Biden has vowed to veto the bill if it reaches his desk. But the bill sends a strong message that the Republican Party is making a massive giveaway to the fossil fuel industry their top priority; notably, the Democratic equivalent to “H.R. 1,” passed around this time in 2021, was a sweeping pro-labor bill.
Other Democrats and climate advocates have spoken up against the bill, saying that it is absurd in its reach to destroy what few environmental regulations exist in the U.S.
“My residents are already hurting. H.R. 1 would devastate their lives even more,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) on the House floor. “This bill is nothing, nothing more than a cheap political stunt to pad the profits of the same greedy oil and gas companies that are price gouging our residents at the pump and poisoning the air they breathe and the water they drink.”
Numerous climate groups have condemned the bill, with Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous voicing his fierce opposition to the proposal in a letter to House leaders on Monday.
“Under the banner of ‘permitting reform,’ the broad suite of bills included in H.R. 1 advances a dangerous agenda to expand oil and gas development, undermine environmental review of pipeline projects and other fossil fuel infrastructure, silence public engagement, fast track approval of LNG export facilities, and loosen vital standards for mining operations on public land,” Jealous wrote.
“Together, these controversial policies will exacerbate the climate crisis, perpetuate environmental injustices, and undermine U.S. economic and national security by extending our country’s reliance on risky and volatile energy sources,” he continued.
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