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Energy in the House-passed Budget

Representative Tom Price, chairman of the House Budget Committee in the 114th Congress, introduced the House Republicans’ Fiscal Year 2016 Budget, “A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America,” on March 20, 2015.

Washington is too often standing in the way of our nation’s energy independence with needless regulations or with subsidies that distort the market.  This budget encourages further exploration of oil and natural gas both onshore and offshore on private and public lands.    This budget asks that the committees of jurisdiction, the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee, pursue policies that ensure private sector capital investment is not crowded out by wasteful bureaucratic interference.  At the same time, it streamlines research and development activities under the Department of Energy, which would ultimately lead to reduced costs.

Additionally, it reforms or eliminates a number of programs within the federal government that produce few useful results or perform a task that can be better handled by the private sector.  As we have seen all too often, application and commercialization of new technologies is best left to the private sector.

Finally, this budget rescinds all unspent funds from the president’s green energy program in the stimulus package.  The government cannot recover taxpayer dollars from failed projects like Solyndra, but it can protect taxpayers from being on the hook for future boondoggles.  This budget came before the House on March 26, 2015, and was passed with my support by a vote of 228 to 199.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 and FY2016 Consolidated Appropriations

Each year, Congress must pass a budget agreement to set overall spending levels.  The budget resolution is used as a framework to guide the 12 individual appropriations bills that must be passed annually in order to fund the federal government.  As you may know, Congress passed H.R. 1314, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which was then signed into law by the president on November 2, 2015.  This bill made adjustments to previously agreed upon caps and set the top line spending levels for the federal government for FY 2016. 

With the Bipartisan Budget Agreement of 2015 signed into law, members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees worked to draft an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the federal government, and on December 15, 2015, H.R. 2029, the Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY 2016, was introduced.  The bill combines the 12 separate appropriations bills into a single bill and provides funding for the whole government through September 30, 2016.  This $1.1 trillion appropriations bill is the product of a process that I have long criticized, a process that is too closed and driven by crisis and brinksmanship instead of by collaboration and big ideas.  That said, as speaker, I had a duty to take ownership of the process that I inherited and, in doing so, I worked hard with my colleagues to make the best of the situation in order to produce a bill that will allow the House to return to regular order.

One of the most critical achievements of this bill is the repeal of the outdated and unnecessary export ban on American crude oil.  After a 40-year prohibition, the positive effects of this policy change are numerous, and the immense impact this will have on our nation's leadership in the global economy cannot be overstated.  Allowing American energy to compete in the global market will grow our economy by approximately $170 billion dollars each year and drive new investment in areas like manufacturing, construction, and agriculture.  This new growth will allow working families to benefit from America's energy revolution because it will reduce the costs of fuel and other products while creating an estimated one million good-paying jobs. 

By allowing American crude oil to enter the global market, our trading partners have a new reliable source of energy, which will bring immediate positive economic benefits, not only across the global economy, but right here at home as well.  Equally important, this expansion of America's economic freedom will also have profound geopolitical impact.  By dramatically decreasing the energy dependence of our friends and allies on nations like Iran and Russia, we diminish the bargaining leverage of countries that are frequently at odds with our foreign policy.  Lifting this export ban increases our economic influence and provides us with increased leverage as we seek to protect our economic interests and allies, and promote peace and stability in a dangerous and unstable world.

The consolidated appropriations bill, H.R. 2029, was passed in the House on December 18, 2015—with my support—by a vote of 316 to 113.  Later that same day, it was passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Obama.

Keystone XL Pipeline Decision

In 2008, TransCanada, a Canadian pipeline company, filed an application to build the Keystone XL pipeline.  According to the Department of Energy and the Energy and Commerce Committee, which have jurisdiction over this issue, the pipeline will eventually be able to move up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day.  Additionally, the pipeline is projected to create 20,000 direct jobs.  Since the Keystone XL pipeline would travel across the border between the U.S. and Canada, the State Department must issue a "Presidential Permit" in order for the project to move forward.  In the years since the application was filed, the project has undergone a comprehensive study by the State Department.  In August of 2011, the State Department completed an exhaustive review of the environmental impact of the pipeline and found that it would have limited adverse environmental impact.  Additionally, on January 9, 2015, the Nebraska Supreme Court issued a ruling that Governor Dave Heineman had the authority to approve the pipeline's path through Nebraska, clearing any legal hurdles that the pipeline faced.  Despite overcoming any environmental and legal concerns, the Administration continued to delay approval of this common-sense, job-creating project.

The House of Representatives has repeatedly taken steps to bypass the president's stonewalling and move the Keystone XL pipeline forward.  During the first week of the 114th Congress, the House of Representatives again took action on this important issue by considering H.R. 3, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, which would authorize the construction, connection, operation, and maintenance of the Keystone XL Pipeline.  After passing the Senate, it was passed in the House—with my support—by a bipartisan vote of 270 to 152 on February 11, 2015.  However, President Obama vetoed the bill on February 24, 2015.

After continually dragging his feet, the president completely rejected the permit application for the Keystone XL pipeline in November 2015, arguing that it would undercut American leadership on the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change.  On January 6, 2015, TransCanada filed one federal lawsuit alleging that President Obama’s rejection of the permit exceeds his power under the U.S. Constitution.  The company then filed a second lawsuit challenging that the president violated the North American Free Trade Agreement.  The president's decision to reject a project that would have created thousands of American jobs, lessened our dependence on foreign oil, improved national security, and caused minimal environmental impact is disappointing.  While I am frustrated with the president's decision to yet again place politics over sound economic policy, my colleagues and I in the House of Representatives remain committed to this project.

Streamlining Regulations and Permitting Processes

The federal government has a clear role to play in preserving our natural resources and protecting the environment.  However, I have concerns with several regulatory initiatives coming from the Obama administration that increase the costs of energy and have a devastating effect on job creation.  Too many people are struggling to make ends meet, and increasing energy costs is not something American families can afford.  Furthermore, we have seen that Wisconsin manufacturers are facing stiff competition from overseas, and these businesses will be put at an even further disadvantage against countries that have no intention of inflicting similar regulations.

I support reforms to our regulatory and permitting processes to ensure that domestically produced energy is able to get to market—whether this means getting natural resources to energy intensive manufacturing regions or getting oil to the refineries that are best suited to process it.  In addition to creating numerous jobs, reforms like these would allow domestic manufacturers and refineries to take advantage of less costly American energy.  Over the past few years, multiple refineries that import oil from overseas have shuttered due to an inability to compete with refineries that have access to cheaper domestic oil.  Certain refineries are built to process light sweet crude oil, like those found in North Dakota, while others are built to process heavier oil, like what we import from Canada.  Streamlining regulations and permitting processes will create more competition in the market, which often leads to lower prices for the consumer.

In an effort to ease our nation’s ability to export natural gas, I cosponsored the American Job Creation and Strategic Alliances Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Act.  This legislation would expedite the permitting process to export U.S. natural gas to World Trade Organization (WTO) countries.  Currently, companies seeking to export natural gas must gain approval from the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy, which determines if such exports are in the public interest.  For countries with which the U.S. has a free trade agreement (FTA), the approval is automatic.  For non-FTA countries, there is a regulatory process to determine if such exports are in the public interest.  This bill would treat WTO countries similar to FTA countries, making the public interest determination automatic. 

Thanks to recent breakthroughs in technology, we are now the top natural-gas producer in the world, and we should do all we can to seize this opportunity.  The American Job Creation and Strategic Alliances LNG Act recognizes the importance of acting upon this opportunity and take action to ensure America remains a top energy producer.

Domestic Production

America has an abundance of domestic resources – including natural gas and oil in the Outer Continental Shelf, Alaska, oil shale in the Central West, and diverse, alternative energy sources.  A top priority of the 114th Congress must be to unleash the potential of domestic production of American-made energy in an environmentally-conscious manner.  We can do this while simultaneously improving infrastructure and creating jobs by allowing the use of royalties paid by energy companies to repair roads and bridges.  Increasing supply at home will not only help lower fuel prices and create good paying jobs, but it will reduce our reliance on foreign oil from hostile nations such as Iran and Venezuela.  To this point, House Republicans are committed to advancing proposals to increase American–made energy.

Gasoline Tax

Increasing the gasoline tax remains a contentious issue in Congress.  The Highway Trust Fund (HTF), used to fund the federal government’s surface transportation programs, is primarily financed by the federal excise tax on gasoline and diesel sales.  However, since 2008, the financial obligations of the HTF have regularly been greater than trust fund balances.  This is a result of several factors, including improved fuel economy for vehicles, a decline in miles traveled by drivers, and the effect of inflation on the fixed gas tax.  As a result, tens of billions of dollars have been transferred from the Treasury's general fund to pay for these shortfalls. Without action by Congress to provide funding for the HTF, our nation would have seen see hundreds of thousands of lost jobs.

At a time when the economy is struggling to grow, we do not need more taxes.  Working families have been struggling for years to get by, and when gas prices finally drop and people are finally catching a break, the last thing we should do is take that economic benefit away by indiscriminately raising the gas tax.  Simply chasing fuel efficiency with higher taxes is a regressive solution to a serious problem.

As you may know, on November 5, 2015, the House passed H.R. 22, the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act, in bipartisan fashion by a vote of 363 to 64.  The DRIVE Act would reauthorize federal highway and mass transit programs through 2021 without raising the excise tax on gasoline.  Furthermore, this bill would make important reforms that would protect against wasteful spending and ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used efficiently for projects that address our nation's most pressing transportation and infrastructure needs.  Because the House-passed bill differed from its Senate counterpart, the House and Senate voted to enter into a Conference to resolve the differences between the two bills.  On December 1, 2015, the Conference reported a reconciled version of H.R. 22, the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015, to both chambers of Congress.  On December 3, 2015, in bipartisan fashion, the House passed this bill by a vote of 359 to 65.  The Senate also acted in bipartisan fashion to pass this bill on December 3, 2015, doing so by a vote of 83 to 16.  The president signed this bill into law on December 4, 2015.  

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