House Bars Presidents From Banning Fracking, Blocks Oil and Gas Royalty Hikes—Again

Chamber’s GOP leaders launch ‘Energy Week’ with bills recycled from adopted 2023 omnibus never submitted to the Senate, drawing mockery from Democrats.

The House has adopted the first two measures in a six-bill package to restore the United States’ “energy dominance” and roll back President Joe Biden’s “green energy policies” that Republicans say increase energy costs and benefit adversaries, including the Chinese Communist Party, Russia, and Iran.

Lawmakers on March 20 passed proposals to ban presidents from imposing moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing—fracking—without Congressional approval and to block enactment of oil/gas regulations and royalty rate hikes on federal public lands included in 2021’s Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act and 2022’s Inflation Reduction Act.

The fracking moratorium ban, House Resolution 1121 (HR 1121), the Protecting American Energy Production Act, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), was approved in a 229-188 vote with 15 Democrats saying ‘aye.’
HR 6009, the Restoring American Energy Dominance Act, filed by Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), which directs the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to withdraw a rule boosting statewide lease bonds from $10,000 to $150,000 and from $25,000 to $500,000, while increasing royalty rates from 12.5 percent to 16.67 percent, moved in a 216-200 tally with three Democrats joining Republicans.

Democrats attempted to kick both measures back to the House Natural Resources Committee, with HR 1121 staying on the docket for adoption in a 213-202 vote and HR 6099 staying on the floor vote in a 211-204 tally.

Both bills—and the four to follow in the coming days—were debated and adopted in House committees last year and eventually incorporated into the massive HR 1, The Lower Energy Costs Act, which was approved by the chamber on March 30, 2023, but never submitted to the Senate.

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That deja vu made talking points from both sides of the aisle that consumed more than three hours of floor discussion over a span of five afternoon hours a reiteration of retreads with large doses of partisan rhetoric tossed in.

“We’re passing sections of HR 1—the Polluters over People Act—for a second time because it’s all show,” Rep. Sydney Kamlager (D-Calif.) said. “House Republicans are just repeating the same tired arguments and passing the same messaging bills that aren’t going anywhere and the American people know better.”

‘Democrats Want to Ban Fracking’

As they did last year, Democrats argued states regulate fracking and a president, including President Biden, has never imposed such a moratorium but banning one from doing so could prevent the federal government from quickly responding to an oilfield emergency.

“This extreme legislation … is nothing more than a made-up solution in search of a problem,” Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) said. “To be clear, the president has made no indication he will ban fracking and yet HR 1121 would prohibit the president from ever banning fracking for any reason, ever, despite the risks it poses.”

Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.) said HR 1121 would ensure regulation remains with the states, adding that Democrat administrations, including under President Barak Obama, have attempted to impose regulations on fracking but were stymied by court rulings that determined the federal government was over-reaching its regulatory authority.

“The fact is, this president, on the campaign trail said, and I quote, ‘No new fracking,’ end quote,” he said. “This was candidate Biden and we know from what he’s done in his first three-plus years in office, you have to listen to his words, watch his actions. He’s done it on mining. He said we were going to mine domestically for our critical minerals. Once he became president, he changed his tune.

“After three years of disastrous energy policies by this president,” Mr. Stauber continued, “we know we cannot take him for his word, which is why exactly this bill is necessary.”

But it’s not just Mr. Biden, he said. “Democrats want to ban fracking,” he said, citing Vice President Kamala Harris, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Transpiration Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland expressing desires to ban fracking.

The White House, in a March 18 statement, called the bill “a red herring” because neither the president nor the Secretary of the Interior has proposed fracking moratoriums, noting “states already have discretion over the use of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas development on state and private lands.”

Vice President Kamala Harris (2-L) and special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry (L) watch as President Joe Biden signs several executive orders related to climate change, including one directing a pause on new oil and natural gas leases on public land in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington on Jan. 27, 2021. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
Vice President Kamala Harris (2-L) and special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry (L) watch as President Joe Biden signs several executive orders related to climate change, including one directing a pause on new oil and natural gas leases on public land in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington on Jan. 27, 2021. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

BLM Rules Would Hurt Small Businesses

HR 6009, the Restoring American Energy Dominance Act, would prohibit BLM from implementing any similar rule to raise bonding requirements and royalty rates, which have not been increased since the 1920s.

Mr. Stauber said the bill would restore “nationwide bond” capacities for energy companies that the Biden administration wants to restrict only to state by state bonds.

“The BLM’s stated rationale for doing this is to protect taxpayers from having to clean up orphaned wells. One would think there’s an orphan well crisis on BLM lands, given the significant cost increases, however, the opposite is true,” he said. “According to the Department of the Interior, there are only 30 sites [with] 37 orphan wells” on the 245 million acres of public lands across 12 states that the BLM manages.

“Their proposed regulations would also be extremely harmful to small business,” Mr. Stauber said, citing Wyoming Oil & Gas Conservation Commission Supervisor Tom Kropatsch, who said the new bonding requirements “would hurt hundreds of small businesses” in the state, “resulting in lost royalties, taxes and other revenues to local and state government, and likely will create orphan wells, not protect against them.”

“The impacts will be the same in energy-producing regions nationwide,” he said.

The White House also issued a March 18 statement opposing HR 6009, claiming it “would unnecessarily interfere with the rule-making process and would prevent the BLM from responsibly managing its federal oil and gas program on behalf of the American people.”

The White House said royalty rates haven’t increased in a century, BLM oil/gas regulations haven’t been updated since 1988, and “still contain fiscal terms that were set more than 70 years ago.”

Current regulations and royalty rates “have failed to provide a fair return for oil and gas production on federal lands to the American people, and put American taxpayers at increased risk of having to cover cleanup costs when companies go bankrupt,” it said.

Other measures to be heard in the coming days is HR 1023, filed by Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.), which would repeal the Clean Air Act’s Section 134 greenhouse gas reduction fund; a concurrent resolution sponsored by Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) “expressing the sense of Congress that a carbon tax would be detrimental to the United States economy”; HR 987, filed by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) “denouncing the harmful, anti-American energy policies of the Biden administration”; HR 7023, carried by Rep. David Rouzer (R-N.C.), to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act’s Section 404 “to codify regulatory provisions relating to nationwide permits for dredged or fill material.”
Workers tend to a well head during a hydraulic fracturing operation outside Rifle, Colo., on March 29, 2013. (Brennan Linsley/AP Photo)
Workers tend to a well head during a hydraulic fracturing operation outside Rifle, Colo., on March 29, 2013. (Brennan Linsley/AP Photo)

A Recycled ‘Energy Week’

The measures emerged from Republicans three-day Issues Conference last week at the Greenbrier Inn in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia—owned by Republican West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, who is vying for retiring Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.V.) seat against Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.V.) in a May 14 primary—as part of House GOP leadership’s “Energy Week.”

“This week, House Republicans will pass the legislation promoting American energy independence and opposing Biden’s anti-energy agenda, there’s no other way to describe it,” House Speaker Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) told reporters before floor proceedings began.

Spearheaded by then-House Speaker Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Republicans orchestrated a similar “Energy Week” last year, unveiling a sweeping omnibus package that would become HR 1 on March 21, 2023 during the final day of a three-day retreat at Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes in Orlando attended by about 150 GOP lawmakers.

HR 1 was adopted by the House nine days later in a 225-204 partisan vote and dispatched to the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, “It was dead on arrival.”

But it never arrived.

And some of the 20-plus 2023 individual bills incorporated into HR 1 are being rehashed for 2024 hearings and adoptions.

Democrats mocked Republicans’ recycled “Energy Week” bills, with Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) claiming the “feckless Republican majority” has achieved little other than stirring up rancor, especially among themselves, while adopting only 27 bills in 2023 and only half the appropriations bills that constitute the Fiscal Year 2024 federal budget, which began Oct. 1.

The “Energy Week” bills are “a partisan package of pro-polluter energy and environmental bills,” she said. “Half these bills have already been considered by the House last year and the other half are toothless resolutions.

“This majority has done nothing,” Ms. Scanlon said. “They’ve squandered their majority, they’ve squandered the country’s time and taxpayer dollars, and they have nothing to show for it.”

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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