Obama threatens to veto sweeping House bill

Source: Hannah Northey and Hannah Hess, E&E reporters • Posted: Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The White House yesterday threatened to veto the lower chamber’s comprehensive energy bill, warning that the language would undermine ongoing environmental reviews of critical energy infrastructure and stifle efforts to expand efficiency.

The House energy package, H.R. 8, would ax critical mandates needed to wean federal buildings off of fossil fuels by 2030, unnecessarily tinker with complex energy markets, and undermine the current federal review process for gas pipelines and hydropower projects, the White House said.

The language also threatens to interfere with the president’s authority to conduct diplomacy, according to the White House.

“If the president were presented with H.R 8, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill,” administration officials wrote in a statement.

The administration’s disapproval is not surprising given that bipartisan negotiations surrounding the bill have collapsed in recent weeks and months over climate policy and other sticking points.

After failing to reach an agreement with Democrats asking for more climate-related provisions, Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) moved the bill through committee in September with support from just three minority members (E&E Daily, Oct. 1).

Many of the issues that hijacked earlier negotiations are poised to surface again today when the House Rules Committee sorts through at least 94 amendments, with more trickling in last night.

Hours after U.S. EPA unveiled a rule yesterday that would break the “blend wall,” Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) offered an amendment to prohibit the agency from requiring a biofuel blending level greater than what the fuel market and infrastructure can accommodate (E&ENews PM, Nov. 30).

Under an amendment from Democratic Rep. John Garamendi of California, ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, Congress would adopt provisions requiring the use of American ships and crews whenever the U.S. exports crude oil.

Other measures would repeal the crude oil exports ban and the nation’s renewable fuel standard or scrap energy conservation standards under the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act (E&E Daily, Nov. 30).

Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) complained to the House Rules Committee yesterday that Democrats had failed to negotiate on a handful of critical provisions.

But Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) said bipartisan progress crumbled after the bill was moved out of subcommittee on a voice vote. Today, the bill does little to address climate change or renewables, support the financing of new energy infrastructure or thwart the hazard of old, leaky gas pipelines, he said.

Tonko urged the House Rules Committee to adopt the maximum debate possible so Democrats could speak in opposition, and even change the legislation as it moves through the lower chamber.

“Judging from the sheer number of amendments, it seems H.R. 8 does not address many of these concerns,” Tonko said. “Therefore, I urge the committee to report an open rule to allow for several ranking members … and all members on both sides of the aisle to present their ideas to the full House by offering their amendments.”