Although Donald Trump hasn’t formally endorsed House Republicans’ plans for rolling back regulations and expanding energy production on federal land, Speaker Paul Ryan said yesterday that he felt "very confident our party’s presumptive nominee is comfortable with this agenda."
The Wisconsin Republican chose a strategic spot on the Capitol lawn — with the Department of Labor headquarters as a backdrop — to bash federal agencies for a lack of transparency and promote legislation that would limit funding for regulations (E&E Daily, June 14).
But Ryan’s efforts to distance himself from Trump stole the scene. "GOP is party of Trump!" protesters yelled, flanking Ryan with yellow posters attacking Trump.
Ryan tried to deflect questions about Trump insinuating that President Obama had sympathies for terrorists.
"I am not going to get into the day-to-day habit of commenting on what the president says and what our nominee says," Ryan said.
Without mentioning Trump by name, Ryan said the real estate tycoon "knows just as well as we do by listening to the American people — by traveling this country and talking to people who are suffering under these crippling regulations — that these regulations, written by these unelected bureaucrats, are costing us jobs and costing us prosperity."
Regulatory reform is the third of six policy plans Republicans are introducing as part of their election-year agenda (E&E Daily, March 2).
Tomorrow, they’ll introduce another policy paper from a task force on constitutional authority.
Ryan said, "We are comfortable in the fact and the belief that we, with a Republican president, can implement this better-way agenda."
Trump is scheduled to meet with GOP lawmakers in Washington, D.C., on July 7 at a time and location to be determined.
Meanwhile, Republicans are repackaging bills that have already passed the chamber and drawn veto threats from the White House.
They include the "Regulatory Accountability Act," which includes a requirement for advanced notice of proposed major rulemakings, and H.R. 4775, which would push back full implementation of U.S. EPA’s air pollution standard for ground-level ozone (E&E Daily, June 9).
Ryan’s plan also advocates for legislation that would limit funding for regulations. Republicans on both sides of Capitol Hill introduced legislation this spring to establish a cap on rulemaking and impose consequences for exceeding the cap (E&E Daily, May 26).
The GOP would require agencies to submit a regulatory budget for congressional review under H.R. 5319.
The Center for Progressive Reform’s senior policy analyst, James Goodwin, declared the plan "beyond stale" and decried Ryan’s "hackneyed" talking points.
"This plan would take us back to the laissez-faire days of the Gilded Age. An America run by robber barons didn’t serve us well then, and it certainly wouldn’t serve us well in the 21st century," Goodwin said. "The House majority’s plan is to hobble regulatory safeguards across the board, making the world a more comfortable place for polluters and manufacturers of unsafe products while leaving Americans more vulnerable to a host of hazards."
However, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) say the proposal has the potential to wipe outdated rules and regulations from the books and free up the oil and gas industry.
Republicans call the growth of domestic energy production "one of the few economic bright spots" of the Obama presidency. They point to a Congressional Research Service report that shows oil production has fluctuated on federal lands over the past five fiscal years but has increased dramatically on non-federal lands, rising by 3 million barrels per day.
Obama administration rules on methane emissions and hydraulic fracturing are framed as another threat to fossil fuel development by lawmakers who want to build a case for opening more federal land to oil and gas development, including coastal regions and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
However, CRS notes that having more lands accessible may not translate into higher levels of production on federal property, as industry seeks out the most promising prospects and higher returns on more accessible non-federal lands.
Faster pipeline permits
Bishop said energy production on federal lands and offshore "has decreased because of a regulatory system that promotes uncertainty and burdens and holds up jobs and holds up production almost indefinitely."
The Republicans call for enactment of the "Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act," H.R. 161, which would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission a year to decide whether to approve or deny a pipeline. White House officials said they would advise Obama to veto the measure, saying it would impose "unworkable" timelines (E&ENews PM, Jan. 20, 2015).
The Sierra Club’s John Coequyt trashed that plan, saying it would let Big Oil drill "on our most cherished public lands."
"The only people this plan provides a better way for are fossil fuel billionaires," said Coequyt, director of climate policy for the advocacy group.
Ryan’s plan calls for the federal government to continue to be more flexible and to rely on state and local regulatory approaches. He accused federal agencies of trying to keep companies they regulate in the dark during rulemaking.
"Right now, most of us have no idea what’s going on behind those walls," Ryan said, pointing to Labor’s Frances Perkins Building. "The only cameras that are in there are those for security. Maybe you can get a meeting with the deputy assistant secretary for annoying phone calls — if you’re lucky."