Energy & Environment

GOP’s new energy agenda, one subpoena at a time

While President Barack Obama traverses the country spreading his message of an “all of the above” energy policy, it has become the job of Rep. Doc Hastings (R–Wash.) and his House Resources Committee to clean up the administration’s mess.

Obama says he supports oil and gas exploration, but his administration has canceled lease sales across the West, banned oil and gas drilling on the outer continental shelf and in key parts of Alaska, blocking billions of barrels of oil.

“The potential resources we have there is huge,” Hastings told Human Events.

“This administration’s rhetoric as it relates to domestic energy production—and I don’t say this lightly—is 180 degrees from their actions,” Hastings said. “[Obama's] actions have made it harder to utilize the only resources we have here in our country.”

But while his hard-working panel has passed numerous bills last year to promote energy development in the Gulf of Mexico and across public lands to counter the president’s actions, they have encountered a significant roadblock—Senate Democrats.

Key stalled bills include the Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act, Putting the Gulf of Mexico Back to Work Act, and Reversing President Obama’s Offshore Moratorium Act.

“They are not passing anything over there. It’s very, very frustrating for us,” Hastings said.

Although the committee can’t overturn Obama’s policies without help from the Senate, they have one last weapon in their arsenal that can aid them in exposing the politics behind those decisions—subpoena power.

Earlier this month Hastings issued subpoenas demanding documents, recordings and emails to explain how decisions are being made to alter energy development practices.

In one case, officials edited a report to suggest engineers supported a moratorium on oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico—the engineers actually opposed the moratorium.

Lawmakers also want to know why a rule that took the Bush administration five years to write protecting streams near coal mines was rewritten by Obama officials in two months. The Associated Press reports the new rule would eliminate 7,000 jobs and cause economic harm in 22 states.

“They worked on that for five years, for goodness sakes,” Hastings said. “For this administration to unilaterally overturn that in two months raises a number of questions—what did the (Bush) administration do wrong, or, is this a political decision and not a policy decision as it relates to coal mining? Because that’s really what the basic issue is. We have an abundance of coal in our country, but when you have these regulations stifle the production of coal, I think the American people need to know what has happened.”

The committee has been investigating these issues for nearly a year, and so far the administration has refused to turn over the requested documents.

“I find that rather striking, since this president said he was going to be the most open and transparent, and in fact, we are experiencing something that is entirely different and had to issues subpoenas.”

The only energy policy Obama appears to honestly support is government funding of renewable energy, and the committee has to clean up some of that that mess too.

As part of Obama’s 2009 stimulus package, $3.25 billion went to a loan program operated by the Western Area Power Administration that included a taxpayer bailout provision if the projects failed.

The committee held hearings to determine if taxpayer funds were put in jeopardy to finance wind and solar companies that could not attract private investment. Now Hastings and Rep. Tom McClintock (R –Calif.) are pushing legislation to repeal the financing and recover about $2 billion that remains.

“This administration has been focusing only on the renewables at the expense of the abundance that we have of coal, oil and natural gas. And these energy jobs are good paying jobs. In a down economy, why would we be ignoring these good paying jobs in areas where we have an abundance of potential energy?”

Meanwhile, the Resources Committee will focus this year on gas prices, job creation, multiple use of federal lands and energy production of oil, gas, and mining.

“I was in favor of an all-of-the-above energy plan long before the president took that phrase,” Hastings said.

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