A House Energy and Commerce Committee panel approved legislation to study and delay rules from the Environmental Protection Agency linked to gasoline and natural gas.
The energy and power subcommittee voted 15-8 today for the measure. Natural gas was added in a voice vote, as proponents said the fuel could be used in the future to replace gasoline in vehicles. The measure advances to the full House, and the Democratic-led Senate needs to act before the bill can become law.
“The American people are concerned about high gasoline prices, but they are particularly angry when they learn that their own federal government may be making matters worse,” Representative Ed Whitfield, a Kentucky Republican and chairman of the subcommittee, said before the vote.
Gasoline prices at the pump are up 19 percent this year, after falling to an average for $3.904 a gallon yesterday, according to AAA data.
The panel also approved, 9-7, a bill requiring the Energy secretary to develop a plan for opening more federal lands for oil and gas drilling when the administration decides to release crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Republicans such as Whitfield said environmental rules are leading to an increase in fuel prices. The legislation would prohibit the EPA from issuing new regulation requiring reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from refineries or lower polluting sulfur in gasoline while a government panel studies the effect of regulations on gasoline prices.
The EPA hasn’t proposed either of those regulations, and Democrats said it didn’t make sense that rules yet to be issued were already pushing prices higher.
“This is an imaginary solution to very real problem,” Representative Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said at the hearing.
Republicans’ focus on gasoline prices, and criticisms of the administration of President Barack Obama, were sidetracked when Representative Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, proposed to add natural gas to the EPA measure.
Whitfield opposed that move, saying it was diverting focus from the emphasis on transportation fuels.
“I don’t see how we can’t consider natural gas,” Representative Brian Bilbray, a California Republican, said during the debate. “Natural gas is the only place we are going to find the Btus to replace gasoline within the next decade.”
A British thermal unit, or Btu, is a traditional measure of energy.
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