House Subcommittee Approves Bill to Delay EPA Air Rules, Study Impact on Gas Prices

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House Subcommittee Approval of Two Bills

Key Development: House subcommittee approves two bills, one to examine the impact of EPA rules on gasoline prices and another to link oil reserve withdrawals to more exploration on federal lands.

Potential Impact: Legislation to move through House but not likely to see Senate action.

By Lynn Garner  

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee April 17 approved a bill that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from finalizing three environmental rules affecting gasoline production until their impact on gasoline prices can be studied.

The Subcommittee on Energy and Power also approved a second measure that would require any sales from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to be offset by an increase in federal lands offered for oil exploration.

The Gasoline Regulations Act, sponsored by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), subcommittee chairman, was approved 15-8 after a debate with no Democratic support.

Whitfield described the measure as a “modest” attempt to assess the impact of EPA regulations on gasoline prices, but Democrats argued that the bill would require a multi-agency study before pending regulations are even issued.

The bill would require analysis of a wide range of current and pending EPA regulations to determine their impact on gasoline and diesel prices, including standards for renewable fuels and greenhouse gas emissions.

It would specifically prevent EPA from finalizing three pending rules--to establish new Tier 3 vehicle and gasoline standards, greenhouse gas standards for petroleum refineries, and new ozone air quality standards--until at least six months after an interagency task force submits its final report to Congress assessing the impacts on gasoline prices.

The bill would allow seven months for the task force to complete its final report.

Cost, Feasibility of Air Standards.

The bill also would amend the Clean Air Act to require EPA to consider cost and feasibility in setting new national ambient air quality standards for ozone. Democrats said the provision would undermine the Clean Air Act, which currently does not include economic cost among the criteria for setting ozone standards.

The bill was amended by voice vote to include a proposal by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) to include natural gas prices in the study of the impact of EPA regulations. The bill initially focused only on gasoline and diesel fuel prices.

An amendment by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), subcommittee ranking member, offered as the Democratic response, which would strike language delaying the issuance of new EPA rules, was defeated on a 6-16 vote.

Petroleum Reserve, Federal Lands.

The subcommittee also approved, on a 9-7 vote, the Strategic Energy Production Act introduced by Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) that would require federal agencies to offer more federal lands for oil and natural gas leasing whenever the president orders a drawdown of oil from the nation's emergency oil stockpile.

The bill was amended to apply only to sales of crude oil from the reserve and not to exchanges or loans, which are transactions used frequently by the Department of Energy to maintain the reserve sites and to facilitate domestic oil markets.

Democrats said the bill is unnecessary and would complicate DOE's operation of the oil reserve, which currently holds 696 million barrels.

The bill provides that lands managed under the National Park System or the National Wilderness Preservation System would be excluded. However, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) said the exclusion language is deficient because it does not mention refuges, the Great Lakes, other waterways, and other important environmentally sensitive areas.

By Lynn Garner