US House leaders prepare for battle Wednesday over energy bill

Public land management, reformulated gasoline rules, fuel efficiency standards, and federal authority over energy markets will all be addressed when the House begins debate on a massive energy bill Wednesday. Lawmakers will have more than 100 amendments to consider this week.


Maureen Lorenzetti
OGJ Online

WASHINGTON, DC, July 31 -- The US House of Representatives will begin debate on a massive energy bill Wednesday and start wading through more than 100 amendments.

The amendments to the Republican energy plan cross all political spectrums and run the gamut from small technical changes to wholesale changes to the proposed legislation.

"Congress is trying to cram 20 years of energy policy into 3 days," noted an industry lobbyist.

Public land management, reformulated gasoline rules, fuel efficiency standards, and federal authority over energy markets will all be addressed.

The bill includes recommendations from the White House's energy blueprint but also includes items not necessarily endorsed by the administration, including greatly expanded tax breaks for independents.

Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) told reporters Tuesday that a comprehensive energy policy should include controversial provisions like opening up the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling for the sake of the economy.

"We've all heard a reactionary chorus making the simplistic charge that it's only business groups that want to pass a comprehensive energy plan. But let's not fool ourselves, because if energy shortfalls stall our economy, it will be American workers, seniors, and families who are stranded on the side of the road," DeLay said.

"When the cost of doing business rises, companies tighten their belts: That means jobs are on the line. That's why we need to turn that trend around by increasing our energy supply by opening areas like ANWR for safe exploration."

He brushed aside calls to dramatically increase fuel efficiency standards, saying stronger rules would not be cost-efficient.

"They say we can lower our dependence with new restrictions like higher CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) standards. But we should reject new mandates on American consumers. Higher CAFE standards will cost lives, raise costs on consumers, and will not deliver the benefits their supporters promise."

Despite DeLay's rhetoric, Republican Party leaders acknowledge privately that a powerful coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans will make it difficult for the ANWR provision to remain in the bill. Fuel efficiency standards have also become a touchpoint for lawmakers eager to show that they are not as "probusiness" as the White House has been perceived on green issues.

Contact Maureen Lorenzetti at maureenl@ogjonline.com

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