Republicans’ SPR bill leaves Democrats squirming over oil leasing: ‘It’s the process of equilibrium’

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Several top Democratic lawmakers, who voted for more federal oil and gas leasing in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), were quick on Tuesday to criticize Republican legislation that would similarly tie future Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) releases to additional leasing.

The legislators – Representatives Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., Frank Pallone, DN.J., and Kathy Castor, D-Fla. – explained during a press call Tuesday afternoon that they were willing to support more leasing in some cases, even after criticizing such leasing as a handout for the fossil fuel industry. The three Democrats have all previously taken tough stances against new fossil fuel production on federal lands and waters.

“In terms of inflation reduction [Act]in terms of the piece of legislation where we voted for mandatory sales, it’s the process of equilibrium,” Grijalva, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said in response to a question from UKTN News Digital during the call. is no balance on HR 21 and [the IRA] has historically provided the most resources to address the real problem of the climate crisis and climate action associated with those resources. That was the balance, that was the investment.”

“There’s no investment in HR 21 and there’s basically a withdrawal. So that’s the difference,” he continued. “The difference is compromise, trying to meet in the middle, doing some balancing to try to get the bigger investment into climate action and I’m glad we did it.”

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The Democrats staged the call to attack HR 21, the Strategic Production Response Act, a Republican-led bill that would require the Department of Energy to tap the SPR only when there is a serious power disruption and not before the Department of the Interior (DOI) is issuing a plan to increase oil and gas production on federal lands and waters. The legislation is scheduled for a floor vote later this week.

Despite their criticism of the Strategic Production Response Act, Grijalva, Pallone and Castor all voted for the IRA, which President Biden signed into law in August.

Drafted by Senator Joe Manchin, UKTN.Va., the IRA requires the federal government to reinstate Lease Sale 257, an offshore lease sale spanning 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico, and hold three other offshore lease sales which the Biden administration had canceled due to climate concerns.

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The bill also links new renewable energy leases with additional fossil fuel leases. Under the bill, the DOI is prohibited from issuing wind or solar permits unless it has issued an onshore oil and gas permit during the previous 120-day period and at least two million acres of land have been leased for oil and gas development in the previous year.

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“What we as Democrats are trying to do, with the Inflation Reduction Act as our main vehicle, is to encourage renewable energy sources – wind, offshore wind, solar and other renewables through tax credits and other resources we have in the Inflation Stop reduction act. That’s one of the reasons we support it,” Pallone, the senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told UKTN News Digital during the call on Tuesday.

“So we’re trying to be responsible — away from fossil fuels and at the same time you’re still pumping up more fossil fuels.”

House Energy and Natural Resources Ranking Member Frank Pallone, DN.J., speaks at a hearing on April 6, 2022.

House Energy and Natural Resources Ranking Member Frank Pallone, DN.J., speaks at a hearing on April 6, 2022.
(Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Pallone also echoed a general criticism of proposals to increase fossil fuel production on federal lands, saying there are currently thousands of unused leases held by energy companies.

And Castor, the former chairman of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, added that there were no “redemptive qualities” in the Strategic Production Response Act.

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“There’s no comparison whatsoever. HR 21 — there are no redeeming qualities here,” Castor said. “It’s a big giveaway for Big Oil and polluters. The Republicans are trying to camouflage it as tied to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The Inflation Reduction Act is a groundbreaking piece of legislation and while there are some pieces in it for resource development, it is the most significant investment in clean energy climate resilience in America’s history.”

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“I hope that over time our Republican colleagues will break down how to kneel before the polluters and really become partners with us in solving the climate crisis, driving down costs for consumers, because cleaner energy is cheaper energy – our federal land that people enjoy, that is needed for clean air, clean water, the biodiversity of species,” she continued. “So there’s just no comparison.”

President Biden signs the inflation cut bill on August 16.

President Biden signs the inflation cut bill on August 16.
(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

After the IRA was introduced, several environmental groups blasted the legislation, saying it would exacerbate climate change and oil industry profits.

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“This is a climate-suicide pact,” Brett Hartl, director of government affairs at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in July. “It is self-defeating to tie renewable energy development to massive new oil and gas exploration.”

“Friends of the Earth stands in solidarity with those organizations and communities for climate justice and environmental justice who express deep concern or opposition to the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022,” Friends of the Earth president Erich Pica added at the time.

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