House GOP rolls out energy proposal to counter Democrats offshore drilling ban

House GOP rolls out energy proposal to counter Democrats offshore drilling ban

House Republicans on Wednesday rolled out an energy bill that’s a direct counter to a push by Democrats to ban offshore drilling.

The American Energy First Act, introduced by six GOP lawmakers, is labeled as an “all-of-the-above” energy approach that doubles down on the country’s need for onshore and offshore leasing of public lands for drilling royalties. 

House Republican Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseTrump welcomes LSU to the White House: 'Go Tigers' Republicans criticize Pelosi for gifting pens used to sign impeachment articles The Hill's Morning Report - Impeachment trial a week away; debate night MORE (R-La.) along with Reps. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopOvernight Energy: Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel | GOP lawmakers push back on bill to make greener refrigerators, air conditioners | Green groups sue Trump over California fracking plans Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel Overnight Energy: Critics warn latest environmental rollback could hit minorities, poor hardest | Coalition forms to back Trump rollback | Coal-fired plants closing at near-record pace MORE (R-Utah), Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThe Hill's Campaign Report: Sanders, Warren feud rattles Democrats The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial The Hill's 12:30 Report: Senate receives impeachment articles as trial opens MORE (R-Wyo.), Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarRepublicans criticize Pelosi for gifting pens used to sign impeachment articles Overnight Energy: Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel | GOP lawmakers push back on bill to make greener refrigerators, air conditioners | Green groups sue Trump over California fracking plans Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel MORE (R-Ariz.), Jeff DuncanJeffrey (Jeff) Darren DuncanHouse Republicans add Jordan to Intel panel for impeachment probe House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge Overnight Energy: House moves to block Trump drilling | House GOP rolls out proposal to counter offshore drilling ban | calls mount for NOAA probe MORE (R-S.C.) and Markwayne MullinMarkwayne MullinOvernight Energy: Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel | GOP lawmakers push back on bill to make greener refrigerators, air conditioners | Green groups sue Trump over California fracking plans Republicans push back on bipartisan bill to make greener refrigerators, air conditioners Lawmakers beat Capitol Police in Congressional Football Game MORE (R-Okla.) introduced the bill.

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“Federal regulations have burdened energy development on federal lands and waters for far too long, and this legislation aims to put American Energy First and ensure economic growth and domestic energy security for decades to come,” a description of the bill reads.

The legislation, largely a compilation of separate energy bills introduced by House lawmakers in previous sessions of Congress, is being pitched as an “alternative” energy bill to the three offshore drilling ban packages being voted on by the House this week, which GOP lawmakers have labeled as a "Green New Deal light."

A GOP committee aide for the House Natural Resources Committee said Republican lawmakers involved in the energy bill saw the plans currently pushed by Democrats as, “Fundamentals of the Green New Deal going as piecemeal.”

“What we see is a choice to go with less domestic energy development, locking up our federal land and waters, without evaluating what our possibilities are,” the aide said of the offshore drilling bills on a call with reporters Wednesday.

Lawmakers on Wednesday will vote on the House floor whether to pass two bills that would block exploration drilling in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico and off the east and west coasts. Another vote on an oil and gas drilling moratorium in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is scheduled for Thursday.

The Republican House aide called the three bills, which have some bipartisan support, “dead on arrival” in the Senate. The White House on Monday promised a veto of the bills if any were to land on Trump’s desk.

The American Energy First Act instead opts to make it easier for the country to produce energy, with measures to limit the executive’s ability to place unilateral moratoriums on drilling on public lands and waters, extending oil and gas drilling to the eastern portion of the Gulf of Mexico that is currently off-limits due to a ban placed in 2006, and streamlining permits for fossil fuel leasers.

While the plan is not an alternative climate change package, committee aides made the point that emissions are lower when energy is produced under the U.S.’s stringent pollution standards. The aides argued that a ban on drilling in the U.S. would not stop oil and gas needs, but instead push the onus for powering the country onto energy exports from foreign, sometimes “unfriendly,” countries with lesser standards. Also, they say that shipping those fuels overseas for U.S. use would contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

“What we see is, looking at these proposals, they aren’t going to do anything to lessen how much oil and gas and conventional resources we're using in the country,” the aide said. “All we'll do is reduce the energy we are producing here and allow for a greater share of imports.”

The bill was also conceived with 2020 elections in mind and the message that could be sent to voters.

“We want to require that Congress weigh in on those decisions, especially with federal candidates saying they will lock up drilling on federal land unilaterally within their first few days in Congress,” the aide said.

“Americans in advance of the election next year should be aware of what alternatives are. This is good policy and what we think is a good starting place while adhering to principles of multiple use.”

Democrats at a coinciding press hearing Wednesday morning poked fun at the Republican bill.

Rep. Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanDemocrats reach cusp of impeachment Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Pelosi heading to Madrid for UN climate change convention MORE (D-Calif), who sponsored the bill to block exploration at ANWR, called the lawmakers backing the Republican legislation “some of the greatest minds of the 18th century."