Nov 18, 2022 - Energy & Environment

House GOP planning support for fossil fuel production

Illustration of a hand in a business suit drawing a red line in front of an oil rig

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

House Republicans are planning bills on permitting reform to boost all kinds of energy production along with legislation specifically to benefit fossil fuels.

Why it matters: The oil-centric proposals are a sharp turn from efforts by Democrats focused on steep emissions cuts and would face opposition in the Senate and from President Biden.

Driving the news: Rep. Bruce Westerman, the top Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee, told reporters on a phone call Thursday one of his priorities is unlocking quicker government approvals for all kinds of energy projects, from oil to solar.

  • Westerman said Republicans also want to pass legislation boosting new mining in the United States. This would give companies making batteries and EVs more domestic options for raw materials.
  • He also wants to advance legislation related to forest growth – a climate concept similar to what former President Trump trumpeted with his “Trillion Trees Initiative.”

The intrigue: Proposals on permitting reform have had buy-in from moderate Democrats and President Biden, while drawing sharp opposition from progressives because it could ease regulatory pressures on extractive industries.

Flashback: Environmentalists – and Republicans – killed a vote before the midterms on faster permits that Biden promised Sen. Joe Manchin (D) in exchange for passing his signature climate law, the Inflation Reduction Act, Axios’ Ben Geman reported at the time.

Zoom in: Westerman’s office stated in October that Republicans will advance a bill that would force regulators to finish reviews of any kind of construction project on federal lands within one-to-two years.

  • Manchin’s deal with Biden included similar deadlines.

The bigger picture: Republicans want these deadlines to expedite an “all-of-the-above” energy and climate strategy that includes more oil and gas drilling.

  • Westerman said Republicans also plan to move bills that would singularly benefit fossil fuel production – a negative for the climate and a likely non-starter with Democrats.
  • By comparison, faster approvals could actually benefit Biden’s climate agenda. Wind and solar projects are often on public land and impact waters or rare species guarded under environmental laws.
  • At the same time, U.S. carmakers are clamoring for more minerals and materials made here after Democrats nudged them to create local supply chains in the Inflation Reduction Act. Many EV materials currently come from China.

The bottom line: Republicans will have trouble passing fossil fuel-friendly bills under Biden but the contours of a potential bipartisan deal are emerging around how the bureaucracy considers approving energy projects.

  • Yes, but: In a closely divided Congress any political bloc could stop legislative progress, like frustrated progressives or conservatives animated to squash any bill that Biden could claim as a bipartisan win.
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