House Republicans launched their legislative energy agenda Tuesday of more than a dozen measures aiming to increase domestic oil and natural gas production by curtailing environmental regulations.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee debated 17 energy-related bills, underscoring the party’s desire to combat President Biden’s climate agenda, which they argue has stifled American energy and contributed to soaring prices.
“Hydropower, nuclear, fossil energies, wind, solar and batteries — we need all of them in order to secure a stronger, more prosperous America, reduce costs and emissions, address climate issues, and create more robust and resilient communities,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Washington Republican and the panel’s chairwoman.
“A rush to green energy policies, both at the state and federal level, has curtailed reliable energy and infrastructure, resulting in everything from blackouts to spiking prices,” she said.
That rhetoric drew jeers from Democrats, who accused their GOP colleagues of being in the pockets of energy companies and ignoring the environment.
“Republicans are showing today that their top energy and environmental priorities are to do the bidding of Big Oil and to undermine our nation’s bedrock environmental laws,” said Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, the panel’s top Democrat. “House Republicans are stuck in the past and failing to address the energy challenges and opportunities we face today.”
The debate over House Republicans’ energy priorities came just hours before Mr. Biden was set to deliver his State of the Union address to Congress, in which he’s expected to tout Democrats’ signature tax-and-climate-spending law, the Inflation Reduction Act.
House Republicans’ proposals include repealing a new methane emissions fee for natural gas in Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act; condemning Mr. Biden for axing the Keystone XL oil pipeline; and rolling back climate regulations in the Clean Air Act and other laws in a bid to fast-track more fossil fuels and critical minerals production.
The Protecting American Energy Production Act is also on the table, which would restrict a president from banning fracking used in oil and natural gas exploration.
The hearing’s witnesses included former government officials at energy agencies, climate activists and energy lobbyists, but noticeably absent were any current Biden administration officials.
The committee’s Republican majority said that Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Willie Phillips all declined to appear.
Their absence sparked a moment — albeit brief — of bipartisan frustration.
“I agree with my Republican colleagues that we should seek and expect to hear from the agencies at legislative hearings,” said Rep. Paul Tonko, New York Democrat. “But we should also make efforts to accommodate their participation, including by providing legislative texts well in advance and being flexible with the hearing calendar.”
A spokesperson for FERC told The Washington Times that the independent energy utility regulator “respects the important oversight role” of the committee but that the “tight timeline” for the Tuesday hearing “posed insurmountable logistical and scheduling challenges.”
The agencies were provided a roughly two-week notice, a similar time frame offered by the committee to other administration officials who have appeared for separate hearings.
An Energy Department spokesperson said the department only received an invitation eight days ago, on Jan. 30.
“Unfortunately, it is not possible for the Department to prepare substantively for a legislative hearing on such a timeline, and we remain committed to working with Committee leaders to ensure that it has the Departmental perspectives and expertise that it needs to inform legislation,” the spokesperson said.
EPA did not respond to a request for comment.