House advances drilling, fracking bills

The House on Tuesday set up debate and votes on two bills that Republicans say will help encourage energy development and create jobs.

Members voted 222-196 in favor of a single rule that covers both bills. One is H.R. 1965, the Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act, which would set shorter deadlines for approving drilling permits on federal land.

ADVERTISEMENT
The House was originally planning to pass this bill today, but House Republicans said in the early afternoon that a final vote would come Wednesday. A spokeswoman for the GOP said the vote would be delayed due to "a significant amount of committee activity this afternoon and evening."

The other bill covered by the rule is H.R. 2728, the Protecting States' Rights to Promote American Energy. That bill would block pending federal rules on fracking in states that have regulations in place on fracking.

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said both bills are needed in order to improve the ability of western states to develop energy on their land, much of which is owned by the federal government. He said restrictions on this federal land have slowed the ability of these states to fund education, and said eastern states are increasing education funds at twice the rate of states in the west.

"States in the west who are public land states have a difficult time of funding their education system when they are prohibited from being able to develop a lot of the resources which are found in those western states," he said.

"To vote against these bills unintentionally harms kids and harms education in the west."

Democrats broadly criticized the rule for preventing several Democratic amendments from being considered this week, and said downplayed the bills as "messaging" legislation that won't move in the Senate.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) took particular exception to the fracking bill, and said it would exempt states from federal fracking rules even in states that have minimal rules. He said a fracking operation was set up near his father-in-law's house in Colorado, with no warning.

"The sounds of the 24-hour a day and night operation led us to invite my father-in-law to have to stay with us in Boulder in our apartment on our couch during the active phase of the drilling process," he said.

The vote on the rule allowed the House to immediately start debate on H.R. 1965, the Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act. Members will consider up to eight amendments to this bill today, but again, any needed rollcall votes on amendments or the bill itself will come on Wednesday.

More in Energy & Environment

Low oil prices won’t hurt US drilling, feds say

Read more »