Last year, when Republicans gained a decisive edge in both houses of Congress, I made predictions as to the six energy-policy changes we could expect. Here’s where American energy policy stands today.
As predicted, the GOP got right to work backing the Keystone pipeline. With strong bipartisan support, on February 11, Congress passed the bill approving construction. Though many Democrats crossed the aisle and voted with the Republicans, it fell a handful of votes short of making it veto-proof. As expected, two weeks later, President Obama vetoed the bill. Late night arm twisting failed to bring the needed Democrats on board for the March 4 veto-override vote.
A bill to lift the decades-old oil export ban was introduced in February and gained momentum throughout the year. On September 17, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to send the legislation to the full House for final passage—which took place on October 9.
The White House threatened a veto.
The Senate didn’t take up the bill. Lifting the ban, however, was included in the omnibus-spending package that Obama quickly signed on December 18.
With the ban now officially overturned, the first shipment of U.S. crude will be heading overseas in a matter of days—to Switzerland.
Days before the U.N. conference on climate change took place in Paris, the Senate held a hearing and passed resolutions designed to let the world know that Obama did not have the support of the U.S. Senate—which would be needed for any legally binding treaty. The New York Times reported: “proponents believe their defiance will have diplomatic repercussions.”
It is believed that the Republican drumbeat prompted the European Union to back off of its insistence that any carbon goals in the final agreement need to be legally binding. The agreement that was ultimately reached in Paris is, according to the New York Times, “essentially voluntary.”
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
In the December 18 spending bill, the EPA didn’t get a budget increase while many other departments did. It is considered a “loser.” Funding levels for the EPA in 2016 are at a level lower than 2010, but on par with 2015.
Additionally, the agency has received several smack downs in 2015 from federal courts—including putting its onerous Waters of the U.S. Rule on hold. Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the focus of the Senate’s resolutions, is facing numerous lawsuits and may also be awarded a stay. This is surely an issue to watch in 2016.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA)
One of the big concerns for anyone in the West who earns a living from the land—ranching, farming, mining and mineral extraction—has been the potential listing of the greater sage grouse as an endangered species. While it did not get listed, and the omnibus deal blocks the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service from putting it on the Endangered Species list, the Bureau of Land Management has enacted land use plans that will likely have many of the same effects of listing under the Act. It is time for ESA reform.
This final issue saw little action in 2015; but with the anti-fossil fuel movement’s aggressive plans to keep resources in the ground, especially on federal lands, this one is ripe for attention.
For 2016, Congress will need to stay on top of Obama’s rules, regulations, and executive orders aimed at burnishing his legacy on climate change. It should also rein in the EPA, reform the ESA, and work to reduce the amount of land owned by the federal government.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.