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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 4480, Domestic Energy and Jobs Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. POLIS. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me the customary 30 minutes, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, I rise in opposition to the rule and the underlying bill, H.R. 4480, the so-called Domestic Energy and Jobs Act, what is really a death and destruction act, an act that will directly lead to the death of American citizens from various health-related

causes--including cancer--and destruction. It is the destruction of not only our environment, but of our quality of life, including our quality of life in my home State of Colorado that is such an important part of driving our economy forward and creating jobs.

Here we are where several controversial, highly partisan bills have been packaged together. There are seven bills. While there is an attempt to dress this up as a jobs package, it's really a wish list for the oil industry that has no chance of becoming law. It's a huge giveaway to the oil industry at the expense of the health of American families, the health of our environment, and our enjoyment and recreational opportunities and economic opportunities on public lands.

Instead of allowing improvements to this drastic death and destruction bill, the House majority has blocked many amendments offered by Republicans and Democrats alike. Under this restrictive rule, commonsense amendments were blocked, including an amendment I offered that would have directed a study on the impacts of oil shale development on agricultural and municipal water usage. My colleague from California, Representative Napolitano, offered a similar amendment in committee.

Those of us in the West, where farmers, ranchers, and community leaders consistently keep us abreast of water issues--and water is our most precious resource--know that we need some commonsense and objective data with regard to how energy production impacts resources, particularly our most precious resource: water.

What lies at the heart of this death and destruction bill today is simply a false premise. It's the false premise that somehow the United States is failing to make good on its natural energy resources.

The fact is, as a result of President Obama's all-of-the-above energy strategy, our Nation's dependence on foreign oil has fallen drastically, and crude oil production in the United States is at an 8-year high. President Obama has increased production of crude oil substantially over the Bush administration lows. The President's policies are demonstrating that we can have an approach to energy in the United States that boosts oil and gas production and invests in the next generation of cleaner, job-creating, renewable energy technologies, such as wind, solar, and geothermal.

In contrast to the President's all-of-the-above approach, which will lead to reductions in gas prices and a sustainable energy future for our country, this death and destruction bill before us today is an oil-above-all approach. This death and destruction bill hands public lands that we all value over to the oil and gas industry and undermines the laws and rules that have made our air and water cleaner and safer over the past 40 years.

One of the scariest provisions in this package would gut important health-based standards provided for in the Clean Air Act established on a bipartisan basis in 1970. The Clean Air Act-based standards are especially important for protecting children, the elderly, and others who are susceptible to harmful air pollution.

Many nonpartisan public health and medical organizations have recognized that this bill would override clean air standards that have protected American people and families from harmful pollution in the past 40 years. That is why on this bill, which the majority purports deals with energy, we've heard from pediatricians, we've heard from doctors, we've heard from health care providers that this would lead to death, as well as the destruction of jobs, as well as the destruction of our environment and recreational opportunities.

Another controversial partisan provision in this bill would open up vast quantities of public lands to drilling. The bill sets an arbitrary requirement on the Department of the Interior to offer oil companies at least 25 percent of onshore areas that industry nominates each year. Let me say that again. The Department of the Interior wants to open up more lands to industry, even though oil and gas companies hold more than 25 million acres of public lands on shore where they're not producing oil and gas. In addition, these companies are sitting on 6,700 drilling permits that have been approved that they are not using. They need to explore lands where they already hold energy leases.

This is not a sensible energy policy. It's called an old-fashioned land grab and an old-fashioned water grab. They're coming after our land in the West, and they're coming after our water in the West. We're not going to take it sitting down.

Another extreme provision is that this bill would overturn the Federal Land Policy and Management Act to elevate energy production above other public land uses. My constituents in Colorado are tremendously concerned that somehow oil production would trump job-creating activities, including hunting, fishing, recreation, grazing, conservation, mainstays of jobs and the economy in my district that would be overridden in the name of oil, which would destroy jobs and destroy the health of Colorado families and families across the United States.

Another provision in this bill turns the review of applications to drill into nothing more than a rubber stamp. The bill says that if the Secretary of the Interior doesn't make a decision within 60 days, it's automatically approved. It will be automatically approved with no process.

At the same time, many of the proponents of this bill are attempting to gut the budget of many of the agencies that need to review these applications, effectively ensuring that no application can properly be dealt with and evaluated within 60 days, and therefore they would all be automatically approved regardless of the impact on people's health or economic opportunities and jobs.

Now there are so many troubling provisions in this bill. Another one--and this one would likely violate our Constitution, which we began this session of Congress by reciting very publicly in this body--it would limit a citizen's right to participate in the discussion of leasing and drilling by making all dissenters pay a $5,000 fee.

Now imagine you are a Coloradan, an Arizonan, a Pennsylvanian, a Texan who's concerned about drilling near your home or near your school or near your ranch. Now under this death and destruction bill, opening your mouth would cost you $5,000. Free speech would no longer be free, if this bill passes.

Madam Speaker, public lands are just that, public. We all own a share of them. We all benefit from them. They're not the private playground of oil and gas companies. They're owned by all Americans. And all Americans should have a say in how they're used, not just Americans who cough up $5,000.

Well, this bill would grant the oil and gas industry's wish list by opening up public lands and rolling back public health safeguards, hurting health and killing American families. But one thing this bill will not do is lower the price of gasoline. Economists agree: this bill has no impact on the price of gasoline.

There are actually now more drilling rigs in operation in the United States, thanks to President Obama's leadership today, than the rest of the world combined. In addition, the number of drilling rigs has doubled, doubled since 2009. President Obama's leadership has doubled the number of drilling rigs since 2009.

Now research going back more than three decades shows that there is very little correlation between the volume of domestic oil and the price of gasoline at the pump.

Go ahead and tell the American people that we want oil and gas companies to drill anywhere they like with no regard for public health. Is that the message that we want to send? This bill, this death and destruction bill, would not only lead to the deaths of Americans but would destroy jobs, destroy economic opportunities, and destroy recreational opportunities. It's nothing short of a Federal land grab and a Federal water grab.

Representing my constituents in Colorado, I encourage my colleagues to say, ``Heck, no,'' on both the bill as well as the rule.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. POLIS. If we defeat the previous question, I'll offer an amendment to this rule that will allow the House to consider the Stop the Rate Hike Act of 2012, legislation that would keep the student loan interest rate low and reduce the deficit. If Congress fails to act, more than 7 million students across this country will see their student loan interest rate double come July 1, just around the corner. It's outrageous that at this time of slow and painful economic recovery the majority continues to refuse to work on this issue in a bipartisan way.

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Mr. POLIS. Madam Speaker, this is a rare time when we are talking about energy, when we are hearing from the Academy of Pediatrics, the Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the Public Health Association, the National Association of City and County Health Officials, and a number of other signatories on this letter which says, very simply, that we should make sure that the EPA can determine whether our air is safe to breathe and not do it based on how much it costs to reduce air pollution.

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Mr. POLIS. And here we are. While we're debating this death and destruction, oil above all bill, the clock is ticking on student loan payments that will cost middle class families millions and millions of dollars.

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Mr. POLIS. Very good. Then I'm prepared to close, and I will yield myself the balance of the time.

Now, this rule only provides for consideration of certain amendments. Why are the Republicans so concerned with letting the House work their will on such an important bill?

Now, a number of these measures have been brought forward by Representatives from Colorado. I want to be clear that these are policies that are not universally supported in Colorado and that many of us believe that the policies contained in this set of bills would destroy jobs as well as the quality of life and health of not only Colorado and the West, but the entire country.

In Colorado, we've created a balanced approach to energy policy that's worked. In some areas we lease, some areas we use for other purposes, some areas we protect. Many Colorado small business owners agree, our parks and public lands are critical not only to the economy and job growth, hiking, fishing, hunting, the outdoor industry, but also to our quality of life and our health.

This job-destroying Federal landgrab, Federal water grab bill would put tens of thousands of Coloradoans out of work and destroy the quality of life for our entire State. This bill puts the wish list of the oil and gas industry above all the other users of public lands, above the interest of hunters, above the interest of fishermen, above the interest of hikers, above the interest of tourism, above the interest of skiers, above the interest of conservationists. This bill is out of touch with the citizens of Colorado and will destroy jobs in Colorado and throughout the country.

Look, companies are able to drill. They've been drilling the last 40 years. President Obama's leadership has led to twice the number of drilling wells. Our energy production is at an 8-year peak from oil and gas, and we continue to increase our energy production on public lands, and there's a responsible way to do it.

But we need a balanced approach that doesn't throw out the safeguards and protections that protect the health of children and the health of families, to protect our jobs in the outdoor industry, that protect our jobs in the recreation industry and protect our quality of life across the Western United States, and laws that protect our water and laws that protect our air.

This bill, this series of omnibus death and destruction bills, simply fails that test. The American people deserve more than the death and destruction, oil above all omnibus package that's being offered here today. While millions of Americans are waiting in the unemployment lines, we need a bill that creates jobs rather than destroys jobs.

An increased concentration of toxic chemicals can harm the health of American citizens and Coloradans. Now there is great promise and opportunity in technology that will allow companies to drill with less of an impact on human health and the environment. That's why we have a regulatory framework. It is to ensure that there is incentive to make sure that American families are safe.

This package of job-destroying bills that has been brought before us today would harm our sensitive lands and constitute a Federal land grab and Federal water grab, all without lowering the price at the pump and destroying tens of thousands of jobs in the process.

This death-and-destruction bill is simply not what this country needs to move forward. I urge my colleagues to oppose the rule and to oppose the bill. I urge a ``no'' vote on the rule and to defeat the previous question.

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