Analysis by Energy Workforce President Tim Tarpley
Tomorrow, the House of Representatives is expected to pass H.R. 1, The Lower Energy Costs Act. This package will be one of the largest energy packages to pass the chamber in a decade. The legislation is a grab bag of GOP energy initiatives and is expected to pass largely along party lines. Of particular interest to Energy Workforce Members will be the number of pro-energy House Democrats who cross party lines to support the legislation. The more House Democrats who cross over will help put pressure on Senate Democrats to take up elements of the bill.
H.R. 1 is actually a combination of a handful of energy and mining bills that have been introduced and referred to the three committees that have jurisdiction over energy issues. The large package would require the federal government to hold quarterly oil lease sales in Western states. It would speed up environmental permitting, which has slowed down energy infrastructure construction in the United States. The package would also allow for more hardrock mining in mineral-rich states like Minnesota and Idaho.
While H.R. 1 is not expected to be taken up as a full package in the Senate, it is still quite possible that elements of the package will be negotiated and potentially become part of other packages that do become law. The permitting section (also know as The Builder Act) probably has the most legs of anything in the package. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), if you recall, had a similar bill in the Senate last Congress that couldn’t get over the finish line. There are many similarities between the two — most importantly is that the House package is stronger in my opinion and leaves less discretion to the agencies. The more discretion, the more variance we will see among different administrations. It is possible that a stand-alone permitting package could be negotiated out from these two bills in the coming months.
Also, the U.S. is scheduled to require an increase of the debt limit sometime between July and September, so a legislative must-pass vehicle will be needed to pass both chambers. These debt limit negotiations have traditionally been an opportunity for legislative “riders” to get included, as both parties will need votes from the other side in order to pass the initiative. It is possible that the House GOP will negotiate some elements of H.R. 1 to be included in that package in return for their support. Which provisions make it through this negotiation process is too hard to predict at this point. However, if permitting reform has not passed as a stand-alone by that point, logic would indicate it would be at the top of the list.
Tim Tarpley, Energy Workforce President, analyzes federal policy for the Energy Workforce & Technology Council. Click here to subscribe to the Energy Workforce newsletter, which highlights sector-specific issues, best practices, activities and more.