What is in House Republicans’ energy policy package?

A grain truck drives past a Keystone pipeline pumping station near Milford, Neb., Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. President Donald Trump took action Thursday to clear the way and speed up development of a wide range of commercial projects by cutting back federal review of their impact on the environment. The aim of the planned overhaul of the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, is to streamline environmental approvals for major construction efforts like highways, airports, pipelines and power plants. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

House Republicans effectively named energy policy as their top priority when they introduced an energy package, known as H.R. 1, earlier in March. On Tuesday, the chamber started debate on the bill. 

While the bill is unlikely to make it past the Democratically-controlled Senate or President Biden, it does lay out the party’s vision for how to improve the country’s energy policies and may be important for its messaging in the years ahead.

“This bill counters President Biden’s attack on our domestic energy, and includes permitting reforms that will speed construction for major infrastructure projects across the country,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said, adding that the bill will also “grow our economy” and “strengthen our national security.”

Here’s what the bill would do if it were to pass:

Bolster fossil fuels

The Republican bill contains several provisions aimed at boosting the production and sales of oil and gas. 

For public lands, it requires the Interior Department to hold at least four annual sales per state in at least nine states for oil and gas drilling rights. 

It also would reduce the royalty rate that companies that drill offshore need to pay to the government from at least 16.67 percent down to 12.5 percent. It would also require the Interior Department to release its next five-year plan for offshore oil leasing by no later than July 1. 

The legislation would seek to limit the president’s authority to block crossborder energy projects like the Keystone XL pipeline blocked by Biden. Instead it gives the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Energy Department jurisdiction over the approval of cross-border pipelines and electricity transmission, respectively. And it would get rid of state authority to block projects like pipelines or gas export terminals that run through their waters.

It would also bar any kind of pause on fracking, an oil and gas extraction method that has become controversial for its potential health and environmental effects, including being linked to increased childhood cancer rates.

The bill also seeks to make it easier to sell U.S. liquified natural gas abroad by getting rid of the need for Energy Department approval for export applications for countries where the U.S. doesn’t have a free trade agreement.

Permitting reform

The bill contains provisions aimed at speeding up the nation’s approval process for permits for energy and infrastructure projects. 

It would set two-year time limits for conducting a more-stringent type of environmental review known as an environmental impact statement for major projects. These reviews would also be limited to 150 pages, except for extraordinarily complex projects, where the reviews would have a 300-page maximum.

Less-stringent reviews, known as environmental assessments, would be limited to one year and 75 pages. 

A 2020 White House review found that the average environmental impact statement was 575 pages, while the median was 397.

The bill would also require anyone wishing to challenge a project’s approval to do so within 120 days. 

Boost mining

The legislation contains a provision that would require an assessment of the potential impacts to the mineral supply chain, including economic and national security implications, before the Interior Department can bar mining on parcels of federally-owned land.

The bill seeks to make it easier for uranium to join a list of “critical minerals” that the federal government seeks to prioritize. While uranium was characterized as a critical mineral under the Trump administration, the Biden administration removed it from the list, citing a 2020 law that barred the inclusion of “fuel minerals.” The new legislation would seek to circumvent that hurdle for the mineral’s inclusion. 

Repeal Inflation Reduction Act programs

The bill gets rid of several programs that were passed last year as part of Democrats’ climate, tax and health care legislation. 

One such program aims to reduce planet-warming methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by both providing grants and loans to help companies cut emissions and also issuing fines on excess emissions. 

H.R. 1 would also cut funds given to the EPA that would seek to spur funding for climate-friendly projects, especially in disadvantaged communities. 

Tags Biden energy policy House Republicans Inflation Reduction Act Kevin McCarthy

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