Cold snap prompts wave of energy bills

Republican leaders in the House next week will call up several energy bills that Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said are a response to the rising cost of heating people's homes.

"Last fall, the Energy Information Administration predicted that 90 percent of U.S. households would see higher home heating costs this year, and low income families already spend 12 percent of their household budget on energy costs," Cantor said on the House floor.

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Cantor added that legislation to fix this problem is needed to help let people stretch their income further, particularly given the country's stagnating median household income.

"America does not work if middle-class families are taking home less," he said.

One of the bills up next week is the Home Heating Emergency Assistance Through Transportation Act, or the HHEATT Act. This bill, H.R. 4076, would allow truck drivers to drive for longer hours in order to deliver propane and other home heating fuels to areas where it's in short supply.

The sponsor, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), said his new bill would help mitigate what has been a "brutal winter."

Other bills coming up are aimed at easing federal regulations on energy companies and utilities — even if enacted, they are likely to be longer-term solutions to the rising cost of heating a home.

For example, the Responsibility and Professionally Invigorating Development Act, or the RAPID Act, would expedite federal permitting for energy construction projects. This bill from Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) would set an 18-month time limit for environmental assessments and a 36-month limit for environmental impact statements on these projects.

Another bill, the Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America Act, H.R. 2824, would protect coal mining operations from what Cantor said is "excessive and unnecessary" federal regulation. The measure, from Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), is a reaction to the Obama administration's effort to re-write coal mining rules.

Finally, the House will also consider the Electricity Security and Affordability Act, H.R. 3826. This bill would force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to write more moderate regulations for coal-fired electricity plans.

"Under EPA's extreme proposal, America would not even be able to build the most state of the art clean coal fired power plant, because the technology required under the proposed regulation is not commercially feasible," Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), the bill's sponsor, said in January.

The energy bills are being called up just days after House GOP leaders finished a week of legislation dealing with the broad issue of regulation. Among other things, the House passed bills to limit unfunded federal mandates, require regulations to be transparent and as least-costly as possible, and put new limits on the IRS.