On Tuesday, the House approved an amendment to the Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act, H.R. 1965, that would cut in half funding available for permitting renewable energy projects. The amendment, proposed by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), will cut money available to the government for issuing permits for solar and wind energy projects by 50 percent, according to The Hill.
Hastings, who has received more than $380,000 in direct campaign contributions from oil and gas companies, adjusted language in the bill to severely limit the amount of money available to the Department of the Interior (DOI) and Bureau of Land Management for considering and permitting renewable energy projects. Hastings said cutting funding for renewable energy in half is necessary to reduce the deficit.
The bill was passed by the House yesterday with a bipartisan vote of 228 – 192. H.R. 1965 was introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) in order to make it easier for oil and gas companies to drill on public lands, among other stipulations beneficial to the industries. The bill also directs the DOI to begin leasing for the development of oil shale and would impose a $5,000 fee on any person wishing to oppose a drilling project.
Oil shale, one of the dirtiest fuels on the planet, is found in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. The process of extracting and refining oil shale into transportation fuel takes years and requires vast amounts of energy and water – a resource already in short supply in western, drought-plagued states like Wyoming.
Lamborn’s bill also aims to prevent individuals from opposing any proposed drilling project by requiring anyone who wishes to file an official protest to a proposed project to pay a whopping $5,000 fee. Also, if the bill is passed, onshore drilling permits will be automatically approved if the DOI does not act on the permits within a 60-day period. According to DeSmogBlog,
Lamborn’s legislation plays on several fears and desires of the American people. By including simple phrases like “jobs” and “energy security” in the name, he and his party can sell the idea to a public that will never take the time to find out what the bill is actually about. Instead, they’ll see those key terms and throw their support behind it.
Other last-minute amendments to the bill include a provision introduced by Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) that requires the Secretary of the Interior to include pipelines across federal lands as part of its plan to address energy security, the development of which is required under H.R. 1965.
The bill will also require more lease sales in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, and remove barriers that currently prevent energy development on Native American lands.
Essentially, H.R. 1965 is a giant gift basket from lawmakers to the oil and gas industry. It includes measures to expedite the approval of onshore drilling permits, make it extremely difficult for anyone to oppose drilling projects, open public lands to drilling and pipelines, and cut funding for renewable energy projects in half.
“Once again, the House of Representatives is voting in favor of corporate profits over the health of communities,” Earthworks Executive Director Jennifer Krill said in a press release. “The oil and gas industry will celebrate Christmas early with these three generous gifts from Congress.”