The Obama administration threatened Tuesday to veto a House Republican bill that would link expanded oil and gas production to drawdowns in the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
The White House said it "strongly opposes" the legislation backed by top Republican lawmakers, arguing the measure would "undermine the Nation's energy security, roll back policies that support the continued growth of safe and responsible energy production in the United States, discourage environmental analysis and civic engagement in Federal decision-making, and impede progress on important Clean Air Act (CAA) rules to protect the health of American families."
President Obama has reportedly discussed the option of releasing oil from the SPR to bring down gasoline prices, although the urgency of such action has diminished in the past month or so as prices have fallen.
Industry analysts say the move would likely have very little effect on the cost at the pump.
House Republican leaders are promoting the bill as part of a package that promises to keep energy on the front burner as an election-year issue. In addition to requiring the energy secretary to develop a plan for increased leasing of federal land for oil and gas development, the bill also would set up an executive branch committee to estimate the impact of EPA rules on gasoline prices, jobs and the economy.
The administration's Office of Management and Budget said the legislation "would threaten energy security and broader national security by attaching conditions to the drawdown of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve that could hinder the president's ability to respond appropriately and lawfully to a disruption in the nation's energy supply."
"Linking a drawdown of the SPR with the leasing of federal lands for energy production is entirely without rational basis, either temporally, spatially, or in terms of the nation's energy needs," the statement from OMB said.
Rep. Cory Gardner, Colorado Republican and a prime sponsor of the bill, said the U.S. needs a coherent energy policy and that the legislation would "turn a short-term supply fix into a long-term policy that promotes America's energy independence."
Republicans think energy policy is a weak spot for Mr. Obama, whose administration has blocked action on a major oil pipeline from Canada to Texas earlier this year even as gasoline prices rose and construction jobs grew more scarce. Gasoline prices have fallen significantly in the past month, but Republicans still think Mr. Obama is vulnerable on the issue. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has remarked about the favorable responses he receives at campaign rallies when he vows to build the pipeline.
Referring to the EPA measure, the White House said the bill would "impede progress on important protections for the health of American families" by circumventing clean-air rules that require the government base its decisions on "sound science."
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