Bill that would change environmental review processes for mining passes U.S. House
A bill that seeks to increase U.S. oil and gas production by rolling back environmental review requirements has passed the House of Representatives.
The bill, dubbed the Lower Energy Costs Act, was introduced by Republican Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana and has garnered support from a few dozen House Republicans, including southern Arizona’s Juan Ciscomani. They argue the measure will lower energy costs aims to increase U.S. production and exports of oil, gas and other minerals by waiving certain review requirements on companies and their operations, and lowering the fees they're required to pay, known as royalties.
The measure passed by a 225-204 margin. The vote fell mostly along party lines, with the exception of four Democrats who voted in favor.
Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva says the measure flies in the face of protective laws in place for decades.
"It says to big gas and big oil — the public lands are there, and we are going to now weaken fundamental laws that protect the American people that were put in place in the seventies as a consequence of the pollution and the harm it was causing across the country, to all life," he says.
Grijalva said that includes the National Environmental Protection Act of 1969 and other legislation put in place to safeguard resources like water. He also said the bill wouldn’t actually lower the cost of gas at the pump as it promised. Instead, it would curtail the public’s ability to give their input about the use of their public land, and send profits elsewhere.
"Lowering the fees on an industry, oil, that has made record profits by ... gouging the American consumer ... while increasing their profits, most of it going back to their shareholders as dividend payments ... we're opening the floodgates for locking up public land," he said. "It diminishes the role of public health and safety for the American people in a very direct way, and empowers, quite frankly, big gas, big oil, and the mining industry to, basically ... set energy policy and production for the American people."