This vote was on an amendment that aims to speed up approval of offshore renewable energy projects by limiting environmental reviews.
Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) offered the amendment to Republican legislation that would open vast new stretches of federally owned territory to energy exploration. Rep. Hastings argued that government regulations often slow down development of renewable energy projects in federally owned waters.
Rep. Hastings’ amendment would limit the environmental reviews done on these projects. Under the amendment, federal agencies would be required to review the proposed project and either approve or deny the application. Agencies would no longer be able to suggest changes in the project that would minimize environmental impact.
“This amendment will facilitate the development of clean, renewable energy on Federal lands by providing a clear, simple process for completing important environmental reviews,” Rep. Hastings said. “The amendment would require an environmental review to be conducted only for the specific location where the renewable energy project would be located, rather than requiring thousands of pages of environmental review for numerous different locations. This would significantly reduce the number of years it takes to develop clean, renewable energy projects.”
Democrats argued that Rep. Hastings’ amendment would actually kill renewable energy projects. Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) said that by limiting agencies’ freedom to work with the companies and limiting opportunities for the public to weigh in, the projects were more likely to be hit with lawsuits. Rep. Holt noted that even the renewable energy industry had not come out in favor of the proposal.
“This (amendment) is not intended to accelerate renewable energy. It is to remove protections for the environment,” Rep. Holt said. “This amendment would slow things down, would throw things into court, would result in rejected projects. If the Republicans really want to help renewable energy, you don't need to gut environmental safeguards.”
Rep. Hastings’ amendment was passed by a vote of 250-171. Voting “yea” were 232 Republicans and 18 Democrats. Voting “nay” were 167 Democrats, including a majority of progressives, and 4 Republicans. As a result, the House moved forward with legislation that would limit environmental reviews of offshore renewable energy projects.