The House is voting on several energy bills in November. These represent the first votes on energy issues since Republicans gained controlled of the House. Despite the Republicans’ enthusiasm for energy policy reform, none of the proposed bills is expected to become law because the Senate is unlikely to consider the legislation, and the White House has promised to veto at least the first two bills.
The first House vote on energy legislation was November 20–for H.R. 1965, Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act (Rep. Lamborn, R-CO, and 2 cosponsors). The bill passed 228-192. The Colorado Republican’s bill would accelerate onshore drilling-permit decisions and require that a quarter of nominated acreage be made available for leasing.
Immediately following, on November 21, was H.R. 2728, Protecting States’ Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act (Rep. Flores, R-TX, and 19 cosponsors). It passed 235-187. The bill would block the Interior Department from enforcing federal hydraulic fracturing regulations in states that already have similar regulations or guidance on the books. In the Senate Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced a companion bill, S. 1743, which may help the House bill clear the Senate. However, the White House has promised to veto the bill on the basis that the legislation would undermine efforts to establish a uniform national baseline level of environmental protection.
Energy and Power Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee approved H.R. 3301, the North American Energy Infrastructure Act on November 20, sending it ahead to the full committee. The bill would require executive branch approval for the construction, connection, operation, or maintenance of oil or natural gas pipelines or electric transmission facilities at the national boundary of the United States for the import or export of oil, natural gas, or electricity to or from Canada or Mexico. This legislation would replace the presidential permit process that has been the focus of fights over whether to allow the Keystone XL pipeline to be constructed to bring oil sands production from Alberta to Oklahoma.
To confuse things just a bit, on November 20 the House passed H.R. 1900, Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, sponsored by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS). This bill would set deadlines for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) decisions on certificates of public convenience and necessity. FERC does not get involved in decisions about pipelines crossing international borders but does regulate pipelines like Keystone XL within the US.