House advances third energy bill

The House voted Wednesday to set up debate and votes on legislation that would set a 12-month deadline for government decisions on approving new natural gas pipelines.

Members voted 225-194 in favor of the rule for H.R. 1900, the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act. All but four Democrats voted against the rule for the bill, although more are expected to support the bill when it comes up for a vote on Thursday.

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The bill is one of three legislative solutions Republicans are offering this week to expedite the process of getting permission from the government to explore, extract and transport energy from U.S. lands. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said the bill would help speed up the process of moving natural gas, which would help make the U.S. more energy independent.

"The bill directs the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve or deny a permit application for a new natural gas pipeline within a 12-month time," he said. "Natural gas is one of the clearest examples of how this country will move itself toward a more sustainable energy-independent future, while at the same time allowing and encouraging our economy to grow."

Several Democrats opposed the bill and said it could force the government to reject pipeline applications if they can't meet the 12-month deadline, even if it might otherwise be approved. Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) also said he worries that the bill would undermine environmental reviews for these pipeline projects.

"For me, the most troubling part of H.R. 1900 is that it may result in truncated or inadequate environmental analysis, which threatens the health and safety of communities these potentially hazardous pipelines run through," he said.

Democrats also argued that House Republicans were spending time on legislation that would not go anywhere in the Senate. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the House should be focused on the budget, the farm bill and other legislation instead.

Hoyer encouraged members to vote against ordering the previous question, a procedural vote that would allow Democrats to bring up a resolution saying the House cannot adjourn on Dec. 13 as planned until these other priorities are completed. But as expected, the GOP-led House rejected that effort.