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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 678, Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of debate only, I yield the customary 30 minutes to the gentlewoman from New York (Ms. Slaughter), pending which I yield myself such time as I may consume. During the consideration of this resolution, all time yielded is for the purpose of debate only.

This resolution provides for a modified open rule for the consideration of H.R. 678, the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act, and provides for 1 hour of general debate, equally divided and controlled by the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on Natural Resources.

It makes in order all amendments which were preprinted in the Congressional Record and which otherwise comply with the rules of the House. So this modified open rule is very fair, it's a generous rule, and it will provide for a balanced and open debate on the merits of this particular bill.

Mr. Speaker, I'm also pleased to stand before the House and support this rule, as well as the underlying legislation, H.R. 678, which is the long title I gave earlier.

I appreciate the hard work of the bill's chief sponsor, the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Tipton), as well as the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, the gentleman from Washington (Mr. Hastings), and of the subcommittee of jurisdiction, Mr. McClintock of California, for allowing this bill to move forward from the committee and continuing the Natural Resource Committee's record, under Chairman Hastings' leadership, of furthering several important pieces of legislation which, if enacted, will greatly improve our Nation's energy policies and provide a responsible, balanced approach to further domestic energy development.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Let me take a moment just to give my impression of this particular bill, and then I'll be ready to close at that time.

Mr. Speaker, this is a bipartisan bill which had a bipartisan vote in this body last time and a bipartisan vote in the committee, sent to the Senate, where an errant Senator was able to hold the process up. Fortunately, in this session, there is a new chairman of that committee in the Senate from the West who clearly understands the value and significance of hydroelectric power.

So I think that everyone in this body on both sides of the aisle can agree that our Nation is in great need of more energy. If we want to create real jobs, private sector jobs, there has to be a strong energy component to our ability to do that. Our Nation has tremendous amounts of energy that are locked away domestically in the forms of oil and gas and low sulphur and high-BTU coal reserves; but too often special interest groups and layers of bureaucracy have kept us from becoming more energy self-sufficient with these areas. And we're now seeing and feeling the results every time somebody tries to pay an electric bill.

This administration seems to be dragging its feet on energy development of everything from the Keystone Pipeline to the development of public lands. But there is also another source of energy that is presently being unused and can be put to good use without negatively impacting the environment. The energy resource is what we're addressing here in this particular bill. This bill deals with electricity that can be generated from hydro, a renewable energy resource that is very clean and helpful to the environment.

Numerous witnesses testified this year and last year that there is an uncertainty on the NEPA costs, which throw these projects into limbo and often render projects financially unfeasible and stifle private investment far beyond what has been able to be done. Thus, this is stifling what could be done to produce self-sufficiency in energy production. One witness from Arizona simply testified in 2011 that it would cost them $20,000 to install this generator that would create energy in a Federal canal. Yet the NEPA analysis would cost them $50,000 to check the boxes and do that simple paperwork, as we have heard about. The environmental paperwork in this case is almost three times the cost of the capital that you would put into the project. And it all is redundant since the NEPA analysis was done in the first place for the entire canal. This is a second project put in the same canal that has already gone through this process. It's a manmade canal.

Witnesses have testified this year that despite the Bureau of Reclamation's claim of its categorical exclusions and having a policy in place, not one project has utilized this project because of a potential legal uncertainty surrounding categorical exclusions.

As a result, there is no new development that has occurred, and the gentleman from Colorado's amendment will improve this particular situation. So, once again, let this be done.

This is not denying a NEPA review. NEPA has already been done on every one of these projects. This is saying you don't need to do the same thing a second time, which is simply redundant, it is silly, it's red tape, bungling by administrations that need not be there.

The choice is very simple in this particular bill: Either you can give the administration, the executive branch, the right to make these kinds of decisions on moving us forward, in which case the administration can make and can take away their decision at whim, in which case it invites litigation because of the uncertainty of an administrative policy, and also invites conflict within different administrative agencies. Or we can do what we're supposed to do and actually pass legislation to solve problems. The gentleman from Colorado's approach is simply allowing the legislature to make the decision, to institute what the policy will be and tell the agencies how they will proceed into the future. We can either have the legislature stand up and do our job and do it the right way or we can pass it all off and let the executive branch come up with regulations now which they could change and also are subject to the fear of litigation.

This is an easy thing to do. This bill actually should be a no-brainer. It will increase the energy production we have in the country, it will increase the ability of making sure that we have adequate water resources in the West, it will also give a needed boost of revenues to the canal companies, and it will create ultimately more jobs, especially with a cheap form of highly effective energy production.

This bill is reasonable, and it's understandable why it passed with a bipartisan vote last time. I hope it passes with a bipartisan vote again, and I hope we can recognize that this will move us forward.

Mr. Speaker, I will reserve the balance of my time unless the gentlelady has other speeches that she has requests for.


Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, let me state a couple of things. Number one, this is a good rule. Therefore, you should vote for this rule. It is a fair and open rule--a fair and modified open rule. More importantly, it is a rule that will allow us to discuss a very good bill. This bill encourages energy production. We may think of these as small energy projects, but I am told that all these small projects already being held up in Colorado would create the amount of energy that comes from a large project like the Glen Canyon Dam. It's a large amount of energy that is clean energy that we will be producing. Number two, this bill gets rid of redundancy. It is not that we are doing away with environmental protection or a review for environmental protection. That environmental protection review has already been done. It is that we're simply saying for these small projects you don't need to do the same thing a second time and incur the cost, which is an amazing amount of cost, and potential litigation factors that go along with it.

If we do want to produce private sector jobs, and that is a worthy goal, you have to have energy to do it. This bill produces the energy which will be used to grow the economy to produce those jobs that we really want. That is why it is a bipartisan bill, and I expect a bipartisan vote on this particular bill. It's a good bill, and we should pass it today. This is a fair rule, and I urge its adoption.

The material previously referred to by Ms. Slaughter is as follows:

An Amendment to H. Res. 140 Offered by Ms. Slaughter of New York

At the end of the resolution, add the following new sections:

Sec. 2. Immediately upon adoption of this resolution the Speaker shall, pursuant to clause 2(b) of rule XVIII, declare the House resolved into the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union for consideration of the bill (H.R. 1426) to disallow the deduction for income attributable to domestic production activities with respect to oil and gas activities of major integrated oil companies. The first reading of the bill shall be dispensed with. All points of order against consideration of the bill are waived. General debate shall be confined to the bill and shall not exceed one hour equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Ways and Means. After general debate the bill shall be considered for amendment under the five-minute rule. All points of order against provisions in the bill are waived. At the conclusion of consideration of the bill for amendment the Committee shall rise and report the bill to the House with such amendments as may have been adopted. The previous question shall be considered as ordered on the bill and amendments thereto to final passage without intervening motion except one motion to recommit with or without instructions. If the Committee of the Whole rises and reports that it has come to no resolution on the bill, then on the next legislative day the House shall, immediately after the third daily order of business under clause 1 of rule XIV, resolve into the Committee of the Whole for further consideration of the bill.

Sec. 3. Clause 1(c) of rule XIX shall not apply to the consideration of H.R. 1426.

The Vote on the Previous Question: What It Really Means

This vote, the vote on whether to order the previous question on a special rule, is not merely a procedural vote. A vote against ordering the previous question is a vote against the Republican majority agenda and a vote to allow the Democratic minority to offer an alternative plan. It is a vote about what the House should be debating.

Mr. Clarence Cannon's Precedents of the House of Representatives (VI, 308-311), describes the vote on the previous question on the rule as ``a motion to direct or control the consideration of the subject before the House being made by the Member in charge.'' To defeat the previous question is to give the opposition a chance to decide the subject before the House. Cannon cites the Speaker's ruling of January 13, 1920, to the effect that ``the refusal of the House to sustain the demand for the previous question passes the control of the resolution to the opposition'' in order to offer an amendment. On March 15, 1909, a member of the majority party offered a rule resolution. The House defeated the previous question and a member of the opposition rose to a parliamentary inquiry, asking who was entitled to recognition. Speaker Joseph G. Cannon (R-Illinois) said: ``The previous question having been refused, the gentleman from New York, Mr. Fitzgerald, who had asked the gentleman to yield to him for an amendment, is entitled to the first recognition.''

The Republican majority may say ``the vote on the previous question is simply a vote on whether to proceed to an immediate vote on adopting the resolution ..... [and] has no substantive legislative or policy implications whatsoever.'' But that is not what they have always said. Listen to the Republican Leadership Manual on the Legislative Process in the United States House of Representatives, (6th edition, page 135). Here's how the Republicans describe the previous question vote in their own manual: ``Although it is generally not possible to amend the rule because the majority Member controlling the time will not yield for the purpose of offering an amendment, the same result may be achieved by voting down the previous question on the rule. ..... When the motion for the previous question is defeated, control of the time passes to the Member who led the opposition to ordering the previous question. That Member, because he then controls the time, may offer an amendment to the rule, or yield for the purpose of amendment.''

In Deschler's Procedure in the U.S. House of Representatives, the subchapter titled ``Amending Special Rules'' states: ``a refusal to order the previous question on such a rule [a special rule reported from the Committee on Rules] opens the resolution to amendment and further debate.'' (Chapter 21, section 21.2) Section 21.3 continues: ``Upon rejection of the motion for the previous question on a resolution reported from the Committee on Rules, control shifts to the Member leading the opposition to the previous question, who may offer a proper amendment or motion and who controls the time for debate thereon.''

Clearly, the vote on the previous question on a rule does have substantive policy implications. It is one of the only available tools for those who oppose the Republican majority's agenda and allows those with alternative views the opportunity to offer an alternative plan.

Mr. BISHOP of Utah. With that, I yield back the balance of my time, and I move the previous question on the resolution.


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