Congress’s New Profit-Over-People Policy

The U.S. House of Representatives approved Republican-backed energy bills that would speed up the gas and oil permitting process and block federal regulations for hydraulic fracturing, in the face of a veto threat from the White House on Wednesday. The vote was 228-192 approval for the Federal Jobs and Energy Security Act, H.R. 1965, which would direct federal lands to be managed for the primary purpose of energy development rather than for balancing uses. It would curb and penalize the public for raising concerns about oil and gas projects on public lands that may affect them, such as fracking, and includes two provisions that open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration (byebye polar bears) and automatic approval after 60 days for drilling permits despite safety and environmental concerns (byebye icecaps). The White House released a statement shortly after stating President Obama would veto the bill as, “H.R. 1965 would reverse Administration oil and gas leasing reforms that have established orderly, open, efficient, and environmentally sound processes for energy development on public lands.”

The House also passed Protecting States’ Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act, H.R. 2728, by a vote of 235 to 187. This bill overturns decades of precedent to undermine the protection of federal lands in the pursuit of fracking for oil and natural gas. It prevents the Department of Interior from enforcing any kind of federal standards on hydraulic fracturing if a state has any rules or guidelines for fracking. Effectively, this bill gives control of federal land to the level of government least likely to protect the public in the pursuit of economic prosperity. It also bars federal oversight of toxic waste management, clean water protection and other regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency would lose funds necessary for scientific study of the impacts of fracking on drinking water sources (byebye clean water). Again the Obama Administration released a statement with the intention of vetoing the bill, “[The Bureau of Land Management] has been working in close consultation with States and Tribes on strengthening oversight of hydraulic fracturing operations and establishing a uniform baseline level of appropriate environmental protection. The bill, as reported, would undermine these efforts.”

Next up is the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, H.R. 1900, passed by the House with a 225-194 vote. This bill would rush approval of natural gas pipelines while removing the transparent environmental review process that allows the public to participate in how important federal decisions regarding energy projects are made (byebye civil liberties, byebye civil rights). Approval would be given with disregard to potential impacts on clean water and air, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would have only one year to consider a completed pipeline permit application. The other federal agencies involved would only have three months to sign off on associated permits under the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, and if they did not meet the deadlines the pipeline would automatically be approved. The White House statement on this bill was aligned with the previous statements intending veto: “The bill’s requirements could force agencies to make decisions based on incomplete information or information that may not be available within the stringent deadlines, and to deny applications that otherwise would have been approved, but for lack of sufficient review time.”

What we have here is a bunch of Republicans and a handful of Democrats who have effectively wasted a whole lot of time in Congress passing bills that are going to be vetoed on the basis of common sense. They completely undermine the safety of American people and America’s limited resources – you know, like the water we need to drink and the air we need to breathe – and puts the environment and wildlife at risk in the process. Forget the filibuster, forget the shutdown; even when they make decisions they’ve really accomplished nothing. Welcome to America, where the government puts profit over people.

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