By Ari Natter
The House approved a measure May 10 to ease the federal government's prohibition on the use of alternative or synthetic transportation fuels that emit more greenhouse gases than traditional fuels.
The measure was one of several environmental policy rider amendments that were attached to an appropriations bill (H.R. 5326) that would fund the Commerce Department, among other agencies. The bill was approved by a vote of 247-163.
The fuel amendment, offered by Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), would prohibit the use of funds in the bill to enforce section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (Pub. L. No. 110-140).
That section specifically prohibits federal agencies from buying transportation fuels from unconventional sources--including fuels made from coal-to-liquid processes, oil sands, and oil shale--unless the contract specifies that the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of that fuel are no more than the amount that would be produced from conventional petroleum.
The language in the 2007 law was added by Democrats to prevent the military from procuring large volumes of unconventional fuels such as coal-to-liquid- jet fuel. It has since been in the crosshairs of Republican opponents who have made several attempts to have the measure repealed.
“Placing limits on federal agencies' fuel choices is an unacceptable precedent to set in regard to America's energy policy and independence,” Flores said on the House floor May 9, prior to a vote on the amendment, which was approved 250-173.
However, the Defense Department has said it supports Section 526 and has said it “has not prevented the Department from meeting our current mission needs” and that its repeal or exemption could “hamper” their efforts to decrease their reliance on nonrenewable fuels.
A separate bill, the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310) approved by the House Armed Services Committee May 10, included an amendment that would exempt the Defense Department from complying with Section 526.
In addition to the amendment related to Section 526, the appropriations legislation includes a measure that would prohibit funding from being used to carry out the National Ocean Policy, established by President Obama through an executive order in July 2010.
The plan, which would establish nine regional committees by 2015 to develop plans for streamlining the permitting processes for use of marine and land areas along the nation's oceans and Great Lakes, is overreaching and has no statutory authority, said Flores, who also offered the amendment.
“A drop of rain that falls on your property could be subject to this law,” Flores said on the House floor. The amendment was approved by a vote of 246-174.
Other environmental amendments included in the bill would prohibit the use of funds to be used to carry out the National Science Foundation's Climate Change Education Program.
The fuel amendment offered is available at http://op.bna.com/env.nsf/r?Open=thyd-8u6qrf.
The amendment prohibiting funding for the National Ocean Policy by Rep. Flores is available at http://op.bna.com/env.nsf/r?Open=thyd-8u6qpk.