Keystone Vote This Week, And GOP's Anti-Environment Agenda

by Rona Fried 

As we begin the new year with a Republican majority in the House and Senate, they vow to leave the moniker behind of the least productive Congress EVER.

Yes, they are primed for action, with the House voting Friday to approve the Keystone Pipeline – their must-pass priority. It goes to the Senate next week. Perhaps this is a good thing, forcing President Obama to finally veto the project.

Now in the minority, Democrats are floating some interesting amendments:

  • All oil that flows through the pipeline stays in the US, it is banned for exports;
  • Made in USA materials must be used to build and maintain the pipeline;
  • For every job created by the pipeline, an equal or greater number of jobs must be added through clean energy investments; 
  • States are prohibited from allowing a foreign corporation to invoke eminent domain, as in the case of Keystone.
  • Restore funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to 2009 levels;
  • Modestly raise royalties for oil drilling and mining on public lands (currently at bargain basement prices) to pay for residential solar rebates and LIHEAP funding. Raising the rates would bring in $2.5 billion over 10 years, according to Obama’s 2014 budget proposal.

"Consideration of this bill will provide us with the first opportunity to demonstrate that we will be united, energetic and effective in offering amendments that create a clear contrast with the Republican majority," say Senator Schumer (D-NY) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

Republicans Win: Empire State Building

Here Comes the Assault

As of January 1, several new regulations are in effect: EPA’s "good neighbor rule" that prevents one state from polluting the air of others; and air pollution standards for fracking operations.  Starting in April, power plants must lower emissions of mercury and other toxic chemicals into the air.  

These have already been through endless court battles, but will the next set of rules see the light of day?

The House is preparing for an all-out assault on environmental regulations by creating a new sub-committee that provides oversight of the EPA, USDA, Department of Energy and Department of Interior. 

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, selected Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) to head the sub-committee, charged with blocking every policy related to environment, clean energy and climate. They will work hand in hand with the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Science Committee.

In the Senate, Jim Inhofe (R-OK) will do his part as Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, promising rigorous oversight. "As I’ve watched the president’s actions since November, it has become clear to me that he is intent on making the environment the bedrock of his legacy," he says.

On the state level, Republicans are now in charge in some 30 states, where they too can block action on climate especially on EPA’s power plant emissions.

2015 Docket

New regulations underway:

  • This month, EPA will propose rules that finally regulate methane emissions from oil and gas operations, most of which are expected to be voluntary.
  • EPA proposal to restore protections for streams and wetlands that feed into the drinking water supplies of 117 million Americans.
  • Final rules are expected this summer on carbon emissions from power plants. 
  • Final rules on ozone (smog) will be released this fall.

Read our article, Give EPA Some Credit: US Has Cleaner Air.

Then there’s the 2015 Climate Summit in Paris, where the US will be handcuffed from making deep commitments or getting funding approved for the Green Climate Fund.

Republicans plan to do their dirty work by depriving funding wherever they can.

It’s hard to understand where their hard line against clean air and water comes from, especially when all these agencies bend over backwards to make sure rules don’t negatively impact the private sector. Just today, Sally Jewel, who heads the Department of Interior, bemoaned all the fracking bans in cities and towns across the US – because it can make it confusing for the industry.

I know, it comes from money. "Congress should waste no time in advancing a pro-energy, pro-growth agenda," says Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute. "That includes approving the Keystone XL pipeline, expanding access to domestic oil and natural gas resources and repealing the Renewable Fuel Standard."

Marching orders received. Besides blocking regulations, top priorities are:

  • Fast track exports of US oil, coal, and natural gas
  • No more new parks and wilderness areas (that could lock up energy supplies under the ground)
  • Roll back investments in renewable energy: end renewable fuels and tax credits
  • Open the Atlantic Ocean and environmentally sensitive lands to oil and gas drilling.   

Read our article, House Passes Mother of Anti-Environmental Bills.

Read more: A First Look at the Fossil-Fuel and Anti-Environment Agenda of the Next Congress, by Center for American Progress:

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