The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee last week approved its first Democrats’ $ 3.5 trillion spending plan in a 24-13 party line vote.
One of President Joe Biden’s top priorities in the plan was to tackle climate change, and the panel included initiatives ranging from oil and gas reform to offshore wind companies.
House action was only the starting point for the bill, which will be combined with those of several other House committees to form a massive expense package intended to remake US policy on education, health care, taxes and more.
The larger House bill will then be subject to change during negotiations with Senate Democrats, whose moderates like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin III have already warned that the $ 3.5 trillion mark could be too high. high.
Democratic committee staff said the portion of natural resources includes approximately $ 30 billion in expenses and increases revenue by approximately $ 3 billion. The Congressional Budget Office will provide a more formal estimate.
Climate elements are essential for House progressives, dozens of whom have pledged not to support the bipartisan $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill unless a more robust climate bill is brought forward. also adopted.
Here are four excerpts from the Natural Resources Committee report invoice that could have a major climate impact if adopted.
$ 9.5 billion for Great Lakes restoration and coastal resilience
Seagrass beds, salt marshes, mangrove forests and other coastal ecosystems “are incredibly efficient at capturing and storing carbon”, one of the main contributors to climate change, according to the national ocean service, an agency within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the Department of Commerce.
These habitats and barrier islands also provide resilience to coastal communities against hurricanes and other extreme weather events linked to climate change. But these areas are also already affected by sea level rise, reducing their effectiveness in acting as barriers between ocean storms and land.
Almost a third of the bill’s spending would go to re-establishing such features along the coasts and in the Great Lakes. These projects would aim to increase protection against sea level rise, floods and storms, while adding carbon sinks such as seagrass beds.
Oil and gas reforms
The natural resources bill would make several changes to oil and gas production that climate activists have sought for years.
The bill would increase tariffs for oil and gas developers operating on public lands and waters. The royalty rate would drop from 12.5% to 20% for onshore and offshore development.
The bill would also increase the minimum bid for Bureau of Land Management plots sold for oil and gas development from $ 2 an acre to $ 10 an acre and ban non-competitive leases for development on public lands. .
Low-cost, non-competitive leasing allows energy companies to purchase drilling rights to parcels of public land without participating in the lease sale auctions. Conservation advocates say it allows energy companies to lock down land that could otherwise be used for conservation or recreation.
Republicans on the committee said the measures would cut jobs in the oil and gas industry. U.S. Representative Garret Graves, R-La., Introduced an amendment Thursday that would remove royalty rate increases until a government study can show it won’t hurt jobs. The committee defeated this amendment favorably.
Wind at sea
As part of a program to move the United States away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable energy sources, the bill would restore the authority of the federal government to close lease sales for offshore wind development. from the Atlantic coasts of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina and in the Gulf of Mexico.
The bill would also order the Home Office to conduct lease sales for offshore wind turbines in U.S. territories.
These provisions should also raise funds and help offset the costs of the bill.
$ 3.5 billion for climate jobs programs
The bill provides $ 3 billion for the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps and $ 500 million for a similar program focused solely on tribal lands.
Combined with parts of the spending plan funding the US Forest Service and Labor Department, the reconciliation bill could provide $ 49 billion for new wildfire and fire preparedness programs, according to an analysis by US Representative Joe Neguse , D-Colo., Who introduced self-governing body building bills in the past.
The body would put people to work on conservation, forest management, and other climate-related tasks. It aims both to provide jobs for young people, mostly looking for careers in environmental fields, and to help fight climate change and mitigate its effects.
Republicans on the committee opposed the program’s creation, saying it would only increase federal bureaucracy and was not necessary to tackle unemployment at a time when many private employers are looking for workers.