House passes Interior, EPA budget bill with some key amendments

The US House of Representatives approved the Fiscal 2018 Interior Department, Environment, and Related Appropriations bill on Sept. 14 that included two amendments affecting oil and gas producers that it adopted the previous day. Approval of the amended bill was by a 211-198 vote, heavily along party lines.

The US House of Representatives approved the Fiscal 2018 Interior Department, Environment, and Related Appropriations bill on Sept. 14 that included two amendments affecting oil and gas producers that it adopted the previous day. Approval of the amended bill was by a 211-198 vote, heavily along party lines. One Democrat, Rep. Colin C. Peterson (Minn.), voted with Republicans for the measure, while 14 Republicans joined Democrats in opposing it.

Oil and gas association officials applauded H.R. 3354 overall. They also cited specific provisions denying funding to the US Environmental Protection Agency for its methane emission program and a social cost of carbon program, and approving support for development of a 2019-24 US Outer Continental Shelf program including timely consideration of seismic activity applications for surveys along the Mid-Atlantic OCS.

The bill also preserves vital conservation and restoration funding through the 2006 Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, prevents costly offshore drilling inspection fee increases, prohibits enforcement of an Obama administration Arctic drilling rule that President Donald Trump ordered rescinded, and protects Pacific energy production, National Ocean Industry Association Pres. Randall B. Luthi said.

“However, NOIA remains concerned that certain language in the bill restricts the ability of the federal government to permit and develop OCS energy resources,” Luthi said. “As our nation pursues its energy dominant agenda, it is imperative producers of all forms of energy have full faith in the sanctity of lease terms and can confidently view the federal government as a partner in good standing.”

Independent Petroleum Association of America Pres. Barry Russell applauded House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and the GOP leadership for not moving the 2018 Interior and related agencies budget bill as a continuing resolution, which usually has happened the past few years. “Passing appropriations bills through regular order guarantees more business certainty as IPAA’s member companies can accurately plan for the coming year,” he said.

The approved bill contains provisions that will make it less burdensome for US independents to operate safely and responsibly on federal, state, and private lands, Russell said. He cited Markwayne Mullin’s (R-Okla.) amendment keeping EPA and other federal agencies from using social cost of carbon calculations when formulating federal regulatory proposals.

The House adopted the amendment by a 225-186 vote along party lines on Sept. 13 as four Democrats joined Republicans in their support, and five Republicans voted with Democrats in opposition. It also approved, by a 281-195 vote, another Mullin amendment that would deny EPA funding to enforce its rule limiting oil and gas methane emissions. Balloting in this action also was largely along party lines as three Democrats joined Republicans in support of the move, and 11 Republicans voted with Democrats to oppose it.

“This rule is currently facing litigation and uncertainty, and Congress must act to block this job-killing regulation estimated to cost the US economy $530 million annually,” said Mullin a week earlier during debate on Amendment No. 73. “Methane emissions from oil and natural gas have significantly declined in recent decades without multiple, overlapping federal regulations, and this is no exception.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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