House panel passes three energy bills, including one to limit EPA

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce advanced six bills on July 17, including three bills related to energy development.

The energy bills, which cleared a GOP-dominated committee, were:

  • H.R. 1582, the Energy Consumers Relief Act, which was approved by a vote of 25 to 18. Authored by Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., this legislation will help protect consumers by increasing transparency for major U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations that may drive up energy costs and destroy jobs, said a statement from the committee’s Republican majority. It requires that before EPA finalizes any new energy-related rules estimated to cost more than $1bn, the agency must submit a report to Congress detailing certain cost, benefit, energy price, and job impacts, and the Secretary of Energy, in consultation with other relevant agencies, must make a determination regarding the impacts of the rule. EPA would be prohibited from finalizing certain rules if the rule is determined to cause significant adverse effects to the economy. 
  • H.R. 1900, the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, was approved by a vote of 28 to 14. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, authored this bipartisan bill to help expedite and modernize the federal review process for interstate natural gas pipeline permits. The legislation helps facilitate the construction of new pipelines by setting reasonable deadlines for review and helps hold agencies involved in the permitting process accountable. During the July 17 markup, the committee adopted a substitute amendment to the legislation offered by Pompeo to address concerns raised by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Democratic members at a recent Subcommittee on Energy and Power hearing
  • H.R. 83, a bill authored by Rep. Donna Christensen, D-Virgin Islands, was approved by voice vote. The legislation would require the Interior Secretary to assemble a team of technical, policy, and financial experts to address the energy needs of the insular areas of the U.S. and the Freely Associated States through the development of energy action plans aimed at increasing the use of energy resources, and for other purposes. Freely Associated States means the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau. Insular areas means American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands.

Waxman says H.R. 1582 too vague and duplicative

Ranking committee Democrat Henry Waxman of California released a July 15 briefing memo about the bill markups that said that H.R. 1582 has a number of serious issues.

“First, the bill provides the Secretary of Energy with an unprecedented authority to effectively veto EPA public health rules,” the memo said. “If the Secretary of Energy determines that a rule would cause any ‘significant adverse effects to the economy,’ EPA would be blocked from finalizing the rule. Moreover, the bill requires DOE to base this determination on a skewed analysis of only the costs of such rules without any consideration of the benefits.”

The memo added: “Second, while the bill applies to energy-related rules with an estimated cost of more than $1 billion, it is silent on the time period associated with such costs. It is unclear whether the bill refers to costs of $1 billion annually or cumulatively over some unspecified period of time.”

Also: “Third, the bill appears to allow for the indefinite delay of any EPA energy-related rule with estimated costs of more than $1 billion. The bill bars EPA from issuing a final rule before EPA submits its report to Congress and the Department of Energy completes its analysis and, if applicable, makes its determination as to whether the rule would cause significant adverse effects to the economy. However, the bill establishes no deadline for EPA to submit the report or DOE to complete the study or to make the determination.”

And, said the memo: “Finally, the regulatory analysis process established by the bill would be duplicative. EPA commented that the bill ‘would waste limited analytical resources on duplicative analysis that could needlessly delay important public health protections at an additional cost to taxpayers.’ EPA noted that Executive Order 13211 already requires the agency to examine energy effects, including ‘impacts on energy prices and output, changes in electricity generation mix, impacts on reserve margins for reliability, and other energy-related metrics where relevant for regulations.’”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.