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Gasoline for America's Security Act of 2005

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The Gasoline for America's Security Act of 2005 H. Res. 3893 -- "To expedite the construction of new refining capacity in the United States, to provide reliable and affordable energy for the American people, and for other purposes." -- sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, without co-sponsors, was introduced by Barton September 26, 2005, in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Note the use of the acronym G.A.S. Act, as well as the ever-present employment of the phrase America's Security.

Vote Held Open
On October 7, 2005, the "House leadership held the five-minute vote open for almost 50 minutes until they could convince three lawmakers — Reps. Wayne Gilcrest (R-MD), C.W. Bill Young (R-FL) and Jim Gerlach (R-PA) — to change their minds. The bill passed 212-210. As the vote concluded, opponents of the bill chanted in unity: 'Shame, Shame, Shame!'"

Think Progress has the C-SPAN video (QT link via Crooks and Liars website.) Both QT and WMP links from CNN on BradBlog website.

Scope of the Bill
The "sweeping new energy bill that provides a variety of incentives for refinery construction and operations, ... also reduces the number of automotive fuel blends to six, outlines new federal regulatory authority for oil pipeline construction and oversight of offshore pipeline systems, and institutes federal investigations on gasoline price gouging and futures trading." [1]

Criticism
"Given that new refineries are years away, there is still no solution for current prices or the (90%?) increase in prices since January of 2001." --Metafilter, September 27, 2005.

In short, the proposal "provides benefits for an industry that is enjoying record profits." [2]

Amendment and Roll Call


Passage of the Bill, October 7, 2005

Draft of Proposed Legislation

The "Discussion Draft" of the Gasoline for America's Security Act of 2005 H. Res. 3893 I.H. was released late Friday night, September 23, 2005, was introduced on September 26, 2005, and "scheduled for a markup" by the Committee on Wednesday morning, September 28, 2005. [3]

Reactions About the Proposed Legislation

From a Democratic List Serve

The bill's proposals include: [4]

  • "assured payments to builders of new refineries that cannot start operation because of federal delays or litigation."
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) "to initiate a rulemaking that could loosen New Source Review requirements not only on refineries but also on other energy-related facilities such as power plants and compressor stations."
  • "Barton's Clean Air Act 'bump up' provisions that the Senate rejected during late negotiations [of] the energy bill that was signed into law Aug. 8."
  • "repeals the law's 'refinery revitalization' language. In its place is language giving the Energy Department lead agency authority over refinery licensing, requiring the president to designate areas on federal lands -- including closed military bases -- for future refinery sites."
  • "authorizes the energy secretary and EPA administrator to provide financial and coordination assistance to state governments wanting to site, build, expand or operate any refineries in their states."

Clean Air Watch

Barton is "obviously using the hurricanes as a pretext to jam through the unrelated bump-up provisions that he couldn't slip through in the last energy bill, as well as to launch an attack on the Clean Air Act's New Source Review provisions," Frank O'Donnell, head of Clean Air Watch, said over the weekend (September 24-25, 2005).

"Refinery provisions Besides the CAA provisions and the language granting DOE lead agency status for refinery siting and permitting, the bill provides the industry with standby support similar to what Congress gave the nuclear power industry in the recently passed energy bill.

"For the refineries, this allows the Energy secretary to enter into firm contracts with non-federal entities to build new refineries or to refurbish and return to commercial operation existing but nonoperating refineries. If delays in the startup of a completed refinery are the result of litigation or federal agency regulatory failures out of control of the entity, the secretary would pay damages to the applicant from a new Treasury account."

National League of Cities

Although being "hailed as a post-Katrina package," the proposed draft legislation "masks attempts to dismantle environmental laws that are not barriers to rebuilding the affected Gulf states," Donald J. Borut, executive director of the National League of Cities (NLC) said. Borut said that "the goal of this draft legislation seems to be to pass every provision that didn't make it into the recently-enacted energy bill."

The proposed legislation was scheduled for markup on September 28th "without a single hearing on any of the provisions in the bill," NLC reported. "After a review of the proposed draft legislation," NLC officials "have identified several provisions that would preempt state and local land-use authority, while doing nothing to spur economic recovery following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita."

For example, NLC has expressed concerns about

  • "timing of the bill"
  • "lack of public hearings"
  • "federal government [will be] the final decision maker regarding the siting of refineries and crude oil or refined petroleum pipelines, without the benefit of environmental impact studies, local land use concerns or local public hearings."
  • "all court cases over siting issues [will] be heard in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals-not the state or local circuit courts."
  • "change current Clean Air Act requirements"

Additionally, NLC believes "that provisions in the proposed legislation regarding reformulated gasoline are back-door attempts at invalidating state laws banning the use of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), a known carcinogen," Borut said.

United States Conference of Mayors

"On behalf of the nation's mayors, The United States Conference of Mayors is appalled and shocked that Congress is moving to mark up a proposal put forth by Energy and Commerce Chairman Joe Barton (TX) without input from the nation's mayors or discussions with other public stakeholders," Conference Executive Director Tom Cochran said September 28, 2005.

"While we support Congress' efforts to address the nation's energy challenges, we adamantly oppose at this critical time in the nation's history any move to strip state and local governments of their authority," Cochran said.

"It is imperative," Cochran said, "that Members of Congress hear from cities that would be directly affected by any changes to laws that preempt state and local authority. ... Local-elected leaders take this issue very seriously. We strongly urge Congress to consider the expertise of state and local officials in devising energy policy to rebuild the costal communities impacted by Hurricane Katrina."

Environmental Council of the States

In a September 27, 2005, statement, R. Steven Brown, Executive Director of the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) wrote that modifications to new source review rules "should be informed by the state entities that have managed these sources and understand the range of practical, economic methodologies to improve air emissions" and that "[we] should not allow backsliding on these long-term programs and goals unless and to the extent necessary to overcome what will hopefully be a short-term, though significant, energy need." Additionally, he wrote, "It is critical that States’ ability to issue permits and to provide vital environmental protection services are not hindered."

National Environmental Trust

"Philip E. Clapp, President, National Environmental Trust, regarding "Barton's back-door repeal of the core of the Clean Air Act," said:

"The hubris here is really shocking. Using the twin tragedies of Katrina and Rita to push through a massive rewriting of the public health protections of the Clean Air Act is the height of cynical exploitation. Washington hasn't seen overreaching like this since Newt Gingrich's 1995 Republican meltdown."

Support for the Legislation

National Petrochemical & Refiners Association

The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) issued a statement on September 26, 2005, on the introduction of the Gasoline for America's Security Act of 2005.

NPRA's President Bob Slaughter commented:

"Chairman Barton has proposed far-reaching legislation that seeks by various means to
  1. "increase U.S. refining and pipeline capacity"
  2. "yield additional fuel supplies"
  3. "foster energy conservation"
  4. require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) "both to study gasoline market behavior in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and review NYMEX prices"
  5. expand Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) capacity
"NPRA commends Chairman Barton's continuing interest in obtaining additional U.S. refining capacity and increasing fuel supplies. We share the Chairman's interest in these important policy objectives, and are looking forward to working with him as the Committee and full House considers this proposal. As that process continues, we will show special concern for maintaining energy policy reliance on free market mechanisms as the best and most efficient way to balance the supply and demand of energy products and to encourage refinery capacity additions."

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