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House GOP's planned environmental bills drop Democratic priorities

House GOP's planned environmental bills drop Democratic priorities
© Greg Nash

Congressional Republicans are set to unveil environmental legislation in the coming weeks that eschews the Biden administration's focus on energy and carbon emissions in favor of reducing U.S. dependence on so-called critical minerals and an initiative to plant 1 trillion trees worldwide.

A spokesperson for Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee on Monday confirmed to The Hill that Republicans in the chamber will reintroduce the Trillion Trees Act in the weeks ahead.

The bill — first introduced by the committee's ranking member, Bruce WestermanBruce Eugene WestermanThree questions about Biden's conservation goals Biden officials unveil plan to conserve 30 percent of US lands and water GOP lawmaker barricaded himself in bathroom with sword during Capitol riot MORE (R-Ark.), in 2020 — would target a goal of 1 trillion trees planted by 2050 and create incentives to use wood products as a method of carbon sequestration.

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In a February interview, Westerman told The Hill that the 2021 version of the bill will differ slightly from the 2020 version, adding provisions addressing forest health and the uses of wood products. “I think that’s the kind of policy that Democrats should work with us on instead of pushing these far-left ideas to shut down all energy production on federal lands,” Westerman said.

The spokesperson told The Hill on Monday that a separate bill will also seek to reduce American dependence on critical minerals obtained from China and African nations.

In February, President BidenJoe BidenBiden's quiet diplomacy under pressure as Israel-Hamas fighting intensifies Overnight Defense: Administration approves 5M arms sale to Israel | Biden backs ceasefire in call with Netanyahu | Military sexual assault reform push reaches turning point CDC mask update sparks confusion, opposition MORE signed an executive order requiring a 100-day review of critical product supply chains, including critical and rare-earth minerals.

Republicans plan to unveil the measures next week to coincide with Earth Day, ahead of a planned White House-hosted climate summit with other world leaders next Thursday.

The GOP measures are not expected to include mandatory greenhouse gas emissions caps or carbon pricing, according to Bloomberg. The latter, once ferociously opposed by the energy industry, has moved into the mainstream over the past decade, with the American Petroleum Association endorsing such a plan earlier this year.

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Sierra Club spokesman Adam Beitman told The Hill that the lack of such provisions indicates the party is not serious about climate.

“Congressional Republicans have yet to understand that coal, oil and gas are not solutions to the climate crisis -- they are the cause of it,” Beitman said. “What would be truly innovative, and a real development, would be if they released a plan that actually does something on the scale and timeline necessary to tackle the climate crisis, rather than once again exacerbating or ignoring it.”

Republicans have been sharply critical of the Biden administration’s environmental moves, which include a ban on all new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and the halt of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Updated 3:06 p.m.