GOP proposes massive Lower Energy Costs Act to spur domestic energy independence

Republicans on Tuesday unveiled comprehensive legislation designed to restore the nation’s energy independence by unleashing domestic energy production and lowering costs for Americans.

The Lower Energy Costs Act, H.R. 1, also would reform the permitting process for all industries, streamline energy infrastructure and exports, and boost the production and processing of critical minerals, according to bill summaries provided by the office of U.S. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), who sponsored H.R. 1.

“I am proud to introduce H.R. 1 to cut red tape and increase energy production here at home so we can lower energy costs and stop our dependence on hostile foreign countries for our energy and minerals,” Rep. Scalise said on March 14. “With today’s introduction of the Lower Energy Costs Act, we will show the country how to end the war on American energy, become energy independent again, and lower costs for hard-working families who are struggling under the weight of President Biden’s radical agenda.”

The 175-page measure, which has three original cosponsors, including U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Sam Graves (R-MO), is slated for consideration on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives during the last week of March, the lawmakers said.

If enacted, H.R. 1 would lower energy costs by increasing American energy production, exports, infrastructure, and critical minerals processing; promoting transparency, accountability, permitting, and production of American resources; and improving water quality certification and energy projects, according to the text of the bill.

“Gas and utility costs have skyrocketed to record highs, with the average American paying over 40 percent more for gas at the pump since President Biden took office,” said Rep. Scalise. “Voters gave Republicans the majority in Congress to stop this radical anti-American energy agenda, and to take action that will lower prices, and House Republicans listened.” 

Specifically, to unleash American energy, H.R. 1 would prohibit the president from banning hydraulic fracturing; repeal all restrictions on the import and export of natural gas, including LNG; prevent liberal states from blocking interstate infrastructure projects; and repeal President Biden’s $6 billion natural gas tax that would increase energy bills for families, among numerous other provisions, according to a section-by-section summary of the bill.

Additionally, H.R. 1 would reform the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) permitting process to streamline federal reviews for all sectors of the economy; limit the scope of environmental review under NEPA to reasonably foreseeable and economically feasible impacts; and set deadlines for completion of NEPA reviews at one year for environmental assessments and two years for environmental impact statements, among other provisions in this section.

To secure the nation’s critical minerals supply, H.R. 1 would require the U.S. Energy Secretary to conduct an ongoing assessment of the nation’s supply of critical energy resources, the vulnerability of the critical energy resource supply chain, and the criticality of critical energy resources in the development of energy technologies, the summary says, and would direct the secretary to strengthen critical energy resource supply chains by diversifying sourcing and increasing domestic production, refining, and processing of resources.    

The measure also would express that it is the sense of Congress that the federal government should not impose any restrictions on the export of crude oil or other petroleum products, and would repeal two sections of of the Clean Air Act: Section 136 relating to methane emissions and waste reduction incentive program for petroleum and natural gas systems, and Section 134 relating to greenhouse gas reduction fund would be eliminated, among numerous other provisions.

“From the gas station to the grocery store, President Biden’s war on energy is making life unaffordable for the hardworking people of this country and forcing us to be dangerously reliant on supply chains controlled by the Chinese Communist Party,” said Rep. McMorris Rodgers. “We must reverse course. H.R. 1 boosts energy production, lifts regulatory burdens for the construction of more energy infrastructure, cuts China out of our critical materials supply chains, and lowers costs across the board. 

“All of this will ensure we build a better and more secure future in America,” the congresswoman said.

Rep. Graves agreed, saying the last thing America needs is to be dependent on foreign energy, especially when it can be produced and distributed in the United States while maintaining federal environmental standards.

Also included in H.R. 1 is Section D, which is cited as the Water Quality Certification and Energy Project Improvement Act of 2023, which would clarify that activities under review be limited to Clean Water Act-related water quality standards and to the effects of specific discharges. It also would clarify that state review requirements must be clear and available to applicants and that within 90 days applicants must be made aware of any additional information a state requires to process its review of the permit, according to the summary. 

“This legislation will prevent federal water regulations from being hijacked and weaponized to block important energy projects, and I’m proud to have the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s work included as part of H.R. 1’s commonsense and comprehensive approach to solidifying our energy independence,” said Rep. Graves.

Rep. Scalise also said that H.R. 1 includes his bipartisan Budgeting for Renewable Electrical Energy Zone Earnings (BREEZE) Act, which he sponsored during the previous Congress to increase the revenue his home state of Louisiana receives from oil and gas exploration and production in the Gulf and to create the framework to receive revenue from future offshore wind development. The bill stalled in committees.

“This will give Louisiana billions more to restore our coast and provide stronger flood protection for our communities,” he said. 

U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) also praised the introduction of H.R. 1, noting that during the 117th Congress, House Republicans established the Energy, Climate, and Conservation Task Force to develop energy policies to meet the country’s needs, and H.R. 1 is a culmination of the group’s work.

“This bill counters President Biden’s attack on our domestic energy, and includes permitting reforms that will speed construction for major infrastructure projects across the country,” Rep. McCarthy said. “We now have a bill that will grow our economy, strengthen our national security, and ensure clean, affordable, American energy can power the world.”

Rep. McCarthy also tweeted on March 14 that all legislation is assigned a number when it’s first introduced. 

“Most are chronological. But as Speaker, I get to pick numbers 1 through 10 to indicate how important that legislation is,” he tweeted. “I’m excited to announce H.R. 1: the Lower Energy Costs Act. Let’s Build in America again!”