This Week in the Congress

by Myron Ebell on April 17, 2011

in Blog, Features

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House Committee Acts To Stop President’s de facto Drilling Moratorium

The House Natural Resources Committee marked up three bills on Wednesday that would require the Obama Administration to stop its obstructive tactics and start producing more oil and natural gas from federal Outer Continental Shelf areas.  Committee Democrats dragged out the mark-up for nine hours by offering and insisting on recorded votes on a series of amendments to weaken or gut the three bills—H. R. 1229, 1230, and 1231.  None of their amendments was adopted.

It is expected that the House will pass all three bills in May.  Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) plans to introduce additional bills in the next few months to increase domestic oil and gas production on federal lands in Alaska and the Rocky Mountains as part of House Republicans’ American Energy Initiative.

House Leadership Tacitly Endorses Excellent EPA Strategy

Environment and Energy News reported this week that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) did not rule out attaching something like the Energy Tax Prevention Act (H. R. 910) to the bill to raise the federal debt ceiling.  H. R. 910 would block the Environmental Protection Agency from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.  It passed the House last week on a 255 to 172 vote, but failed as an amendment in the Senate on a 50 to 50 vote.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and main sponsor of H. R. 910, made similar remarks earlier in the week: “No debt limit is going to pass by itself. You’ll have to have some significant pieces with it.”

House Committee Counters Coal Crackdown

The House Energy and Commerce Committee held subcommittee hearings this week on the proposed coal ash rule and on the proposed utility, boiler, and cement Maximum Available Control Technology (or MACT) rules.

Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) has introduced a bill, H. R. 1391, to deny EPA the authority to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste under the Solid Waste Disposal Act.  Coal ash has many industrial uses, including as a replacement for part of the Portland cement in concrete and in drywall.  Classifying coal ash as a hazardous waste would threaten its commercial use and thereby raise costs of producing coal-fired power.

It has been reported that bills will be introduced next month to block or delay EPA’s proposed three Clean Air Act MACT rules.  Each rule would have devastating economic effects.

For example, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Oreg.) at the hearing raised the example in his district (and in my home county of Baker County, Oregon) of a cement plant that has spent $20 million to install technology to reduce mercury emissions by 95%.  Under the proposed cement MACT rule, the plant would be required to reduce mercury emissions by 98.5%.

Achieving the additional 3.5% reduction would be too expensive and therefore the plant will probably be shut down if the rule goes into effect.  With the closure of the National Forests to commercial timber production, the Ash Grove cement plant is the largest employer (after the taxpayer-funded Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and local school district) in the county.

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