Republicans' first major legislative package is a giveaway to corporate polluters.
At a time when communities across the country are experiencing the long-term impacts of climate change and generations of environmental injustice, House Republicans are refusing to act on the realities in front of our eyes. Instead of moving forward to tackle these problems, House Republicans remain intent on taking us back to the past. They want to send us back to a time when corporate polluters acted with impunity and communities had few options to hold them accountable. They want to return our country to the times before the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act when our cities were blanketed in deadly smog and our waterways polluted with toxic substances. They want to sit by and do nothing as climate change and environmental injustices continue to devastate our communities.
H.R. 1, the so-called Lower Energy Costs Act, is their latest attempt to force through a host of energy policies and polluter priorities highly unpopular with the American people. If passed, it would greenlight harmful fossil fuel and poorly regulated mining projects, lock in decades of dependency on dirty energy sources like coal, oil, and natural gas, and undermine the clean energy and climate investments of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). It would also push dangerous changes to the permitting process that would silence communities most impacted by energy development, limiting the opportunities for them to have a say in the projects constructed in their neighborhoods. It’s a corporate giveaway to polluting industries at the expense of our health, well-being, and future.
To sell their dirty polluter bill to the American people, House Republicans are relying on falsehoods and disinformation, claiming their legislation will lower costs for consumers and increase American energy security and dominance. Here’s some of the Republican falsehoods followed by the facts:
Myth #1: We don’t need to transition away from fossil fuels.
H.R. 1 would codify the climate denial espoused by some of the most extremist members of the Republican Party at a time where we urgently need to transition away from fossil fuels. Despite their claims to the contrary, the science is clear. Just last week, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released an alarming report, stating the need for world leaders to act quickly within a narrow window of opportunity to address climate change.
And while last year Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act to address the climate crisis, H.R. 1 reverses course. It actually repeals popular parts of the IRA, like investments in environmental justice communities and tax rebates for homeowners to upgrade their homes with more energy efficient appliances. It even goes as far as repealing the IRA’s methane fee that ensures gas producers pay for their harmful planet-warming leaks. Now is not the time to double down on harmful fossil fuel production.
Myth #2: We need more drilling and mining to make us “energy secure.”
Republicans claim that by “unleashing” the ability of American oil and gas producers to drill as much as possible, the United States can be truly energy independent. But the facts state otherwise. We can’t drill our way out of an energy crisis, and the fossil fuel companies know that. At the time of the invasion of Ukraine, oil and gas companies were sitting on more than 9,000 unused but approved permits to drill on federal land, and they made record profits throughout the first year of the war. As long as we continue to rely upon fossil fuels to power our economy, we will always be at the mercy of geopolitical instability and global commodity prices. The only way to truly become ‘energy secure’ is to accelerate our transition to clean energy and drastically reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.
The same situation is true for acquiring the minerals needed for clean energy technologies. Instead of investing in American innovation to develop new technologies that lessen mineral demand and expand a circular economy for minerals, Republicans are doubling down on old solutions that fail to solve our twenty-first century problems. They’re pushing to expand and fast-track mining permits that already suffer from lax regulations and antiquated laws from the Civil War era, while limiting the ability of communities most impacted by those projects to participate in the decision-making process.
H.R. 1 locks in antiquated solutions for modern problems and would limit our ability to craft and implement the innovative solutions needed to tackle climate change and remedy environmental injustices.
Myth #3 Environmental regulations are the culprits of project delays.
Republicans frequently denounce the long timelines for project approvals and blame environmental protections as the culprits. But the facts state otherwise. It’s not environmental protections causing delays; it’s the failure to adequately fund the federal agencies tasked with providing environmental reviews. The Inflation Reduction Act addresses this problem by providing almost $1 billion for agencies to conduct robust environmental reviews, bringing more efficiency and certainty to project sponsors.
Laws like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) are important tools for ensuring communities have a say in the projects built in their neighborhoods and are critical bridges — not barriers — to building out the clean energy infrastructure of the future in a just and equitable way. When these communities are included from the very beginning of the process in a meaningful way, projects are better, more resilient, and less likely to be challenged in court. Instead of giving a handout to these industries, Congress should instead be working to strengthen environmental protections so that we are not only addressing energy needs, but protecting communities on the frontlines of oil, gas, mining, and other dirty industries.
Myth #4: We have the cleanest extractive industries in the world.
Particularly when it comes to mining, Republicans and their industry allies have rightfully highlighted the horrific human rights and workplace conditions in foreign mines. However, they’ve exploited this situation to call for a rapid and large expansion of domestic mining that is currently causing harm to communities — without calling for much-needed updates to our mining laws and regulations to prevent community and environmental harm.
Current domestic mining practices are governed by the Mining Law of 1872 and have not been updated for over 150 years. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), mining continues to rank as the dirtiest industry in the country, polluting an estimated 40% of the country’s rivers and 50% of the country’s lakes. The human impact is even more startling. Poorly regulated mining continues to negatively impact the health of people living in its close proximity, even long after the mine has closed. Members of the Navajo Nation continue to face higher rates of cancer and kidney failure as a direct result of poorly regulated uranium mining in the American Southwest. Furthermore, mining companies aren’t even liable for cleaning up their own messes and have left taxpayers on the hook for billions in estimated cleanup costs.
H.R. 1 would rush approvals for more dirty projects governed by antiquated laws and regulations. Congress should instead remain focused on updating our mining laws and regulations to ensure that sacred and special places are protected, and that any mining that does occur in the United States proceeds in the most sustainable way possible.
Myth #5. The clean energy transition is killing jobs.
Far from the job-killer that Republicans have denounced, the clean energy transition is driving the job opportunities of the future. Since President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law in August 2022, over 100,000 new jobs have been announced — many in Republican-led states. These include good-paying jobs in battery manufacturing, factories building solar panels and wind turbines, and plants that will build the electric vehicles of the future. A new analysis from the Political Economy Research Institute estimated that by 2030, the jobs created by the Inflation Reduction Act could number over 9 million.
What is Earthjustice doing?
- We’re working with the Biden administration and congressional leaders on building out clean energy transmission in an equitable and just way. Last year, we joined a coalition of environmental groups and released a set of transmission principles that outlined legislative and administrative actions we can take to speed up the approval of transmission infrastructure while ensuring the communities most impacted by transmission projects have a seat at the table for meaningful engagement. View our plans.
- We’re strengthening opportunities for communities to participate in the project development process. We’re supporting efforts like the A. Donald McEachin Environmental Justice for All Act that will expand opportunities for communities to hold polluting industries accountable for environmental injustices. It also allows communities to prevent future injustices by requiring thorough cumulative impact analyses that will allow federal agencies to reject dangerous projects while pursuing better, more resilient project alternatives. Here’s how it will help frontline and fenceline communities.
As Vice President of Policy and Legislation at Earthjustice, Raúl García leads a team of advocates that work with policymakers in Congress, federal agencies, and the White House to advance some of the most consequential policy issues around climate, environmental health, and biodiversity.
A senior legislative representative, Blaine works with Congress, federal agencies, and partner organizations to protect public lands and advance environmental health.
Stephen Schima is a Senior Legislative Counsel based in Washington, D.C.
Established in 1989, Earthjustice's Policy & Legislation team works with champions in Congress to craft legislation that supports and extends our legal gains.