Senator’s Public Lands & Offshore Leasing Amendment stymied by Energy Committee Democrats

U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today voted against advancing energy infrastructure legislation due to its expansion of federal powers over states and private citizens as the nation strives for a more secure and resilient energy sector.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday marked up the Energy Infrastructure Act, a nearly 500-page bill authorizing $95 billion in new spending.  The committee voted 13-7 to advance the measure.

“No one denies that investments are required to provide Americans a more modern, resilient, and secure energy sector.  It’s vital to our national security, the economy, and our environment,” Hyde-Smith said.  “The question is how do we get there, and I believe this bill goes too far in giving the federal government too much power over states, businesses, and private individuals.”

“I hope there is more interest in accommodating these concerns as this bill moves forward,” she said.

The committee split along party lines to block a Hyde-Smith amendment to force the Biden administration to follow existing federal laws regarding the sale of public lands and offshore energy leases.  The amendment followed a recent U.S. District Court decision that President Biden broke the law with his Executive Order pausing all new oil and gas lease sales.

“A command in an Executive Order does not exempt agencies from complying with the reasoned decision-making requirement of the Administrative Procedure Act.  In fact, a United States District Court Judge found that this Administration clearly exceeded its constitutional and statutory authority in halting new oil and gas leases,” Hyde-Smith argued during today’s markup.

The Hyde-Smith amendment would have forced the Interior Department to resume oil and gas leases immediately, as directed by the court; and required the department to provide a status report to Congress on the development of the 2022-2027 oil and gas leasing program, which is another requirement under current law.

Among the reasons Hyde-Smith opposed the bill in its current form are:

  • Uncertainty on how the $95 billion bill would be paid for and a concern that Democrats could use a mandatory (automatic) appropriations tactic to evade budgetary limitations;
  • Allowing the federal government to override state decisions on the location of high voltage electric transmission lines, provisions strongly opposed by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners;
  • Pressuring the adoption of building codes that restrict the use of natural gas in homes and commercial buildings; and
  • Lacking sufficient permitting reform for critical minerals mining and infrastructure construction projects.

It is unclear if the Senate will consider the Energy Infrastructure Act as stand-alone legislation or if it will be rolled into a broader infrastructure package.

Press Release

7/14/2021