Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday dismissed House Republicans’ energy package, calling it “as bad and partisan as it gets” and a “nonstarter” as the basis for negotiations to ease permitting for clean energy and fossil fuel projects.
House Republicans on Tuesday formally introduced their sprawling energy bill, H.R. 1, the Lower Energy Costs Act, in what will be their first big policy agenda push of the year.
“H.R.1 will lock America into expensive and volatile dirty sources of energy and will set America back a decade or more in our transition towards clean, affordable energy,” Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor. “The package is a wish list for Big Oil, gutting important environmental safeguards on fossil fuel projects.”
The bill combines measures to streamline permitting reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act for energy projects and mines, which Republicans hope will form a basis to negotiate with Senate Democrats, with longtime partisan priorities like prohibiting a ban on fracking, mandating oil and gas lease sales and disapproving of President Joe Biden’s decision to kill the Keystone XL pipeline. But these provisions are unlikely to gain traction in the upper chamber given Democratic opposition.
The bill, which is expected to receive a vote on the floor the last week of March, would also repeal major programs in the Inflation Reduction Act such as the $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and the methane tax.
Schumer criticized the GOP’s opening bid on easing the permitting review process, saying it includes “none of the important permitting reforms that would help bring transmission and clean energy online faster.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) introduced a permitting proposal last Congress — backed by Schumer and the White House — that was rejected by most Republicans and failed to pass that would have set targets on the length of environmental reviews under NEPA. It also would have granted more authority to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to site transmission lines needed to connect wind and solar generation to far away demand centers.
Despite that failure, House Republicans have insisted they’re serious about negotiating with Democrats on a permitting bill.
While their “all of the above” energy bill is designed to unite the GOP’s fractious conference around combating high oil and gasoline prices, Speaker Kevin McCarthy told POLITICO Tuesday in a statement that he aims to work with Democrats to pass a permitting bill into law once the partisan phase is over.
“It’s no secret that permitting reform is a top priority for House Republicans,” McCarthy said. “I’m pleased to see more Democrats join us in working to address this issue. We’re long overdue in addressing this challenge, and House Republicans will start by passing H.R. 1.”
Schumer, despite his criticism of the GOP’s effort, held out the potential for bipartisan talks.
“I’m glad that there are good-faith talks underway right now between both parties in both houses to figure out what sort of permitting deal is possible,” Schumer said.
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