A First Look At The Fossil-Fuel And Anti-Environment Agenda Of The Next Congress
Much of the post-election conversation has centered on what Republicans will do with control of both chambers of Congress, with much of the attention focusing on immigration reform and the Affordable Care Act. But a new Center for American Progress report takes a first look at how the new Republican Senate will help the fossil-fuel industry while attacking America’s public lands. The GOP has been vocal about its promise to deliver the Keystone XL pipeline and stop the Obama administration’s rules to cut carbon pollution proposed in the Clean Power Plan. But Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK)—who called climate change “the greatest hoax ever” and will likely chair the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee—has also promised to “file challenges against every final EPA rule.” In addition to these expected attacks on the EPA’s authority to protect clean air and water, CAP’s report details four broad priorities for Republican leaders in the House and Senate for energy and environmental policy:
1. Fast Track Exports of U.S. Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas to Foreign Markets. Republicans’ top priority will likely be growing the export of American oil, natural gas and coal. They will likely fast track the permit process for liquid natural gas exports, try to remove a ban on crude oil exports, and work to bypass local opposition to planned export terminals along the West Coast that would expand shipments of coal to Asian markets.
2. Halt the Creation of New Parks and Wilderness Areas. With the exception of one bill passed earlier this year, Congress has not protected a single new acre of public land since 2009—creating the longest moratorium on new parks since World War II. The trend of congressmen beholden to oil and gas companies blocking protections for monuments, wilderness and other public lands is likely to continue. Congress will also likely attempt to repeal the president’s authority — which Obama has utilized — to create national monuments by gutting the 1906 Antiquities Act.
3. Roll Back Investments in Renewable Energy. Oil and gas industry giants, along with the Koch brothers will pressure Congress to stall the growth of renewable energy production by discontinuing or overturning existing policies encouraging the use of renewable energy sources. These could include attempts to end or scale back renewable fuel standards for vehicles, tax incentives for wind energy production, and overturning a law that prohibits the federal government from procuring especially dirty fuels.
4. Open the Atlantic Ocean and Environmentally Sensitive Lands to Oil and Gas Drilling. Senate Republicans will to work hard to expand oil and gas drilling on federal land by bypassing environmental laws and public review and comment periods. The House passed a similar bill earlier this year.
Despite the successes of anti-environment Republican candidates, voters across the country overwhelming supported conservation this election. Voters in 19 states committed $13 billion to land conservation by approving 35 ballot measures — a result that underscores the disconnect between the agenda of the new Congress and where Americans actually stand on the environment.
BOTTOM LINE: Republicans have proven that they are beholden to the oil and gas industry, and with control of both chambers they will likely advance policies that will benefit the oil and gas giants, no matter the cost to the environment and future generations. Under the leadership of dirty energy giants, the 114th Congress will likely pass harmful legislation that could set back the clock on what progress has been made in combating the effects of global climate change.
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