Congress’ ‘Energy Week 2.0’ is the Anti-Earth Week Nobody Asked For

We don’t have time for reckless bills that continue to give handouts to polluting industries at the expense of people, our environment, and our planet.

This week, close watchers of the U.S. House of Representatives may feel a bad case of deja’vu. In March, House Republicans heralded the arrival of ‘Energy Week’ and passed a series of extreme bills attempting to weaken clean water protections, recklessly block regulations to reign in fossil fuel pollution, and repeal parts of the Inflation Reduction Act meant to spur clean energy projects and investments in disadvantaged communities. None of these bills have a pathway to becoming law, not just because they are terrible policies, but because they have no chance in passing the U.S. Senate or being signed into law by the President. So what’s the point? It’s a chance for some of the most extreme anti-environment voices to simply put out a bill for the sake of it, squandering time and preventing action on other pressing issues.

This week, as a backlash to Earth Day celebrations and an attempt at unity after a tumultuous few months, House leadership has once again thrown together a series of anti-environmental bills that would expand fossil fuel production on public lands, undo landmark conservation measures, remove federal endangered species protections for gray wolves, and give mining companies unprecedented access to stake a claim on the public lands we cherish. Here’s what we’re watching this week:

H.R. 6285: Alaska’s Right to Produce Act of 2023

In April, the Interior Department announced a final rule to protect 13 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska from oil and gas development. The Reserve is warming four times as fast as the rest of the planet due to climate change, and these actions by the Biden Administration protect the tundras, wetlands, and habitats of irreplaceable ecosystems and wildlife of the Western Arctic from more reckless development. The Alaska’s Right to Produce Act would rescind these protections, reinstate the previously cancelled oil leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and eliminate existing protections for 125 million offshore acres in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Additionally, the bill would limit judicial review on all future oil and gas projects in the Arctic, preventing Alaskans from fighting dangerous fossil fuel projects that threaten their way of life. 111 groups sent a letter to Congress opposing this legislation.

H.R. 2925, Mining Regulatory Clarity Act

The Mining Regulatory Clarity Act represents an unprecedented giveaway of America’s cherished public lands to mining corporations, upending and reversing over one hundred years of public land law precedent. Under the bill, anyone — for a nominal fee — gains permanent rights to occupy land, construct massive waste dumps, and build roads and pipelines across public lands to the detriment of all other values. In practice, mining companies could hold our public lands hostage and prevent their use for other types of development and purpose, including recreation, traditional cultural uses, and even renewable energy projects and transmission lines. Mining companies already operate under the 1872 Hardrock Mining Law, an overly permissive law that contains no environmental or public health protections. At a time where we should be strengthening protections for water resources, Indigenous sacred sites, and mining-impacted communities, this bill would do the opposite, further tipping the scales away from communities, the environment, and our clean energy future. 131 organizations sent a letter to Congress opposing this legislation.

H.R. 3195 Superior National Forest Restoration

In January 2023, the Biden Administration issued a Public Land Order withdrawing minerals from the watershed of the Boundary Waters National Canoe Wilderness Area — America’s most visited wilderness area — and Voyageurs National Park. This bill would rescind these protections, reinstate the cancelled leases of the Chilean mining giant Antofogasta, caps further review of the permitting and leases at an arbitrary 18 months, and blocks the leases or permits from judicial review. The bill sets a dangerous precedent that would put a chilling effect on future conservation efforts and silence communities trying to protect their communities, water resources, and special places from polluting industries. 52 organizations sent a letter to Congress opposing this legislation.

H.R. 764 Trust the Science Act

This extreme bill would remove federal protections for all gray wolves in the lower-48 states, except for a small population of Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. Despite its misnomer of a name, the Trust the Science Act would reinstate an October 2020 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the wolf — even though a federal court invalidated that decision because it did not follow the science. Independent scientists maintain that wolves remain functionally extinct in most of their former range across the United States. By reinstating the Trump administration’s scientifically indefensible delisting rule and by precluding judicial review of this rule, the bill undermines the scientific integrity of the Endangered Species Act and undermines the rule of law by closing the courthouse doors to protect a rule that was already overturned once by a federal court. 103 organizations sent a letter to Congress opposing the bill.

H.R. 615 Protecting Access for Hunters and Anglers Act of 2023

Despite this bill’s misleading title, this bill has nothing to do with access to the outdoors for hunters and anglers. Instead, it attempts to prohibit the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture from regulating the use of lead ammunition and tackle on certain public lands. The lead in ammunition and tackle isn’t special. It is the same lead that has already been banned from gasoline, paint, and pipes due to its toxicity to humans and the environment. Banning the use of lead on public lands will better protect the wildlife and ecosystems that sportsmen and women – along with everyone else who uses our public lands–enjoy and depend upon. Congress should not be in the business of preventing agencies from following science and taking necessary actions to safeguard wildlife and the environment. 9 groups sent a letter to Members of Congress opposing the bill.

H.R. 3397 Western Economic Security Today (WEST) Act

The Biden Administration recently finalized a Public Lands Rule that would finally put non-extractive uses of our public lands (such as recreation, conservation, and cultural practices) on a more level playing field with dirty fossil fuel and mining development. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages more than 240 million acres of public lands, but for too long, the agency has prioritized oil and gas development and other extractive processes above other uses. While the fossil fuel industry reaps massive profits from this system, our climate, ecosystems, and communities who depend on and cherish our public lands face immeasurable harm. This bill would rescind this commonsense, long-overdue update of BLM regulations that enables the agency to better balance the uses of our public lands. 115 organizations sent a letter to Congress opposing the bill.

These pieces of legislation shouldn’t even merit a debate in Congress as we face the impacts of climate change, the environmental injustices of pollution, and the stark reality of biodiversity loss. Instead of overtures to polluting industries and political theatrics, the House of Representatives should focus on the critical solutions we need to address the real crises we face.

Based in Washington, D.C., Addie is the legislative director for Lands, Wildlife, and Oceans in the Policy & Legislation department at Earthjustice.

Established in 1989, Earthjustice's Policy & Legislation team works with champions in Congress to craft legislation that supports and extends our legal gains.

Storm clouds pass over the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
Storm clouds pass over the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (Architect of the Capitol)