House Republicans Scorn Environment in Favor of Oil and Gas
Date: Thursday, September 29, 2005 @ 21:58:24 GMT
Topic: Legal

By J.R. Pegg

WASHINGTON, DC, September 29, 2005 (ENS) - Two House committees on Wednesday advanced post-hurricane legislation that relaxes environmental regulations on oil refineries and opens much of the nation’s coast and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development.

Republican leaders said the impact of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina on energy prices exposed the need to boost domestic energy supplies and ease regulation of the nation’s energy infrastructure, despite the recent passage of a $16 billion energy bill.

"We cannot stop hurricanes, but we can mitigate some of the adverse impacts on our energy infrastructure and our economy that hurricanes can cause," said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton, a Texas Republican.

Critics said the new energy legislation does little to help consumers with rising energy costs and rolls back regulations that protect public health and the environment.

The legislation is "a hastily crafted, minimally reviewed bill of dubious virtue," that does nothing to address the nation’s growing demand for energy, said Representative John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat and ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee...

The bill relaxes parts of the Clean Air Act, including the New Source Review program that require refineries and coal-fired power plants to install new pollution equipment when they expand operations...

The changes are in line with revisions proposed by the Bush administration that have been challenged in court by states, environmentalists and public health advocates.

In addition, the bill eases federal ozone standards and gives states broader authority to opt out of federal pollution clean up plans.

The legislation requires the President to designate sites on federal lands – such as closed military bases – for new refineries and provides risk insurance to companies building new refineries. It gives the U.S. Energy Department oversight of refinery permits and reduces local and state input into siting decisions.

"Our country needs more oil refineries because the people who work for a living need gasoline to get to work," Barton said.


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