- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2023

House Republicans will officially unveil a major energy package Tuesday, making increasing domestic energy production their top legislative priority to combat rising costs and address national security concerns.

The legislation, dubbed the Lower Energy Costs Act, will be filed by House Majority Leader Steve Scalise as H.R. 1, a designation that proclaims it as the new Republican majority’s No. 1 issue in the 118th Congress.

The broad package, which the House is expected to pass later this month, consists of dozens of GOP priorities for boosting fossil fuel and clean energy production, in an effort that backers say will lower household prices and strengthen U.S. energy security.

“For over two years now, President Biden and congressional Democrats have waged a war on American energy, and families and workers across the country are paying the price,” Mr. Scalise, Louisiana Republican, said in a recent statement. “Voters sent Republicans to Congress to stop this radical anti-American energy agenda and to lower prices, and House Republicans listened.”

The package would accelerate the approval process for mining and energy projects — renewable and fossil fuel alike; slash environmental regulations; lift restrictions on liquefied natural gas imports and exports; prohibit a ban on the oil-drilling practice called fracking; prevent Mr. Biden from blocking future pipelines like Keystone XL; and greenlight more oil and gas drilling on federal lands.

The proposal would also amend the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, the legal bedrock of current environmental law, and cap judicial review periods for lawsuits to speed up energy projects. NEPA critics — including some Democrats — say the law is outdated and ties up fossil fuel and clean-energy projects in years of red tape and litigation that can cost millions of dollars.

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“I’ll say it over and over — I don’t know if you all will write it — but we are not gutting NEPA,” House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman, Arkansas Republican, recently told reporters. “We’re making NEPA work. We are streamlining it. We’re going to go through the process, we just have to have a process that actually works.”

Speeding up mining projects for critical minerals, which are used in electric vehicle batteries, would wean the U.S. off its dependency on China and complement the $370 billion Democrats pushed through last year for clean energy in their tax-and-climate spending law known as the Inflation Reduction Act.

The GOP package is the product of three House committees — Energy and Commerce, Natural Resources, and Transportation and Infrastructure.

But the legislation in its current form is almost certainly dead on arrival in the Democratic-run Senate, a reality House Republicans concede. Democrats call the GOP package a “polluter giveaway bill to fast-track dirty energy.” President Biden also holds veto over any bill that does emerge from Capitol Hill.

Still, House Republicans say they are laying down a  marker of where they stand on the hot-button issue of energy, amid bipartisan talks to get some form of package across the finish line.

After several failed attempts in the last Congress to streamline the approval process for energy projects, Senate Energy Committee Chair Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, is taking part in the discussions, along with moderate House Democrat, Rep. Scott Peters of California.

“To lower costs for Americans and grow our economy, we need to get the federal government out of the way,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said in a recent statement. “The Lower Energy Costs Act will fast-track American energy production, and includes comprehensive permitting reforms that will speed construction for everything from pipelines to transmission to water infrastructure. And it ensures that the critical minerals needed for advanced technologies come from America — not China.”

• Ramsey Touchberry can be reached at rtouchberry@washingtontimes.com.

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