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Ocasio-Cortez Blasts GOP Energy Bill as “Fossil Fuel Industry Wishlist”

Republicans have introduced several bills aimed at bolstering the fossil fuel industry, seemingly at all costs.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, left, listens during a hearing before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee at Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on February 8, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) has condemned two new Republican energy bills that environmental groups have said would severely undermine environmental and climate protections and uphold the fossil fuel and mining industries.

On Tuesday, the House Committee on Natural Resources held a hearing about two proposed bills: a fossil fuel leasing and permitting expansion bill known as the Transparency and Production (TAP) of American Energy Act and a mining permit deregulation bill called the Permitting for Mining Needs (PERMIT-MN) Act. The bills — some of the first being discussed by the Republican-led committee in the new Congress — reflect the party’s priorities to expand fossil fuel’s grip on the energy industry and worsen the climate crisis.

In her opening remarks, Ocasio-Cortez noted that proposals for opening up public lands for leasing and permitting aren’t in any way necessary for so-called energy independence, which Republicans often claim to champion, but rather serve only to further the aims of the fossil fuel industry.

While the GOP may argue that increasing fossil fuel leasing is necessary to bring down gas costs, she said, the real problem at hand is the oil and gas industry seeking endless profits.

“The problem is not a shortage of leases or land, the problem is a fossil fuel industry that is more interested in keeping supply artificially low so that prices stay artificially high,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “I believe there is almost no greater illustration of this point than the profiteering and artificial surge in gas prices that we all experienced last year.”

“The truth is that these companies are not necessarily primarily motivated by energy independence; they’re corporations, primarily interested in profit,” she continued.

She then shared specific criticisms of the bills being discussed in the committee on Tuesday, saying that TAP American Energy is a “fossil fuel industry wishlist” and that PERMIT-MN “would loosen our mining regulations for the most toxic industry in America.” As she pointed out, not only is a large portion of the land leased by the fossil fuel industry sitting unused, there are also hundreds of thousands of mines that have been abandoned, left to pollute the land and communities surrounding them.

Ocasio-Cortez’s criticisms echoed concerns brought by dozens of progressive and environmental advocacy groups, who sent numerous letters last month raising concerns about TAP American Energy, PERMIT-MN, and a host of other deregulatory and Big Oil-friendly bills that Republicans are pushing in the House.

In a letter sent to the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee on Monday, a group of over 40 organizations raised alarm about the TAP American Energy Act, saying that it would essentially make it “impossible” for the Department of the Interior to use public lands to meet climate and environmental goals.

The TAP American Energy Act “is, for all intents and purposes, a massive, point-by-point giveaway to the oil and gas industry,” the groups wrote, urging members to oppose the bill. The letter was signed by organizations like Change the Chamber, Earthjustice and Sierra Club.

In another letter sent on Tuesday, signed by a similar set of organizations, the groups urged lawmakers to oppose PERMIT-MN. The bill, they say, would be disastrous to land conservation and could jeopardize sacred tribal sites and endangered species. It would do so by allowing mining companies to claim mining rights on public lands without proving that there are valuable minerals in the land, essentially reserving land for mining purposes only.

The two bills have been introduced alongside a number of anti-environmental and pro-fossil fuel proposals by Republicans. Several of them are aimed at repealing climate-friendly provisions passed in the Inflation Reduction Act, while others are focused on prohibiting the Biden administration and Democrats from placing restrictions on pipelines and other fossil fuel activities, like fracking or crude oil exports.

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