D.C. Download: How House Republicans’ energy permitting reform could affect Nevada

11 March 2023

House Republicans are moving an energy package that could have major implications for mining and permitting in Nevada, while Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) began the budgeting process for his subcommittee.

Energy permitting reform on the table

House Republican leadership announced they had given the designation of H.R. 1 – reserved for the caucus’ highest-priority bill – to a package of legislation currently moving through committees to reform energy permitting.

The Lower Energy Costs Act is expected to reform the permitting process in a number of energy arenas – including pipelines, mining, and oil leasing – often by shortening the environmental review process. The package will be brought to the floor in late March, where it is expected to pass the Republican-controlled House, and then serve as a starting point for negotiations in the Senate, where thorny centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) chairs the Energy and Natural Resources committee and wants to pass a permitting package this session.

While energy policy debates typically hinge on Republicans wanting to make drilling and leasing easier and Democrats wanting to protect the environment through regulation, recent developments have created overlapping interest in streamlining permitting. 

Democrats, having just passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), appropriated billions of dollars for renewable energy sources, including battery recycling and lithium mining in Nevada. But if the permitting process is bogged down by lawsuits, lengthy reviews and regulations that the renewable energy industry finds overly cumbersome, the fruits of their legislative labor could take years, if not decades, to materialize. 

Additionally, as competition with China becomes a greater issue among both parties and the war in Ukraine has driven a bipartisan interest in greater energy independence, there is real space for a bipartisan deal on energy permitting to emerge.

“There’s plenty of room to do the right thing by the resource, and the right thing by carbon footprint, without killing the energy sector as we know it,” said Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV), whose district contains both traditional mines and several renewable energy projects set to benefit from IRA investment.

At a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing, Paul Thomsen, vice president of business development at Reno-based Ormat Technologies, shared his support for a bill in the package targeting front-end roadblocks to drilling for geothermal energy.

“A heavy permitting burden means a slow development cycle, and a slow development cycle means developers pay a lot for financing,” Thomsen said in testimony. “Regulatory reform is critical to alleviate barriers to geothermal development in the United States.”

For Nevada, one of the most critical pieces of the energy package is Rep. Pete Stauber’s (R-MN) Permitting for Mining Needs Act. The bill would cut down the review process under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) – a landmark environmental bill from 1970 that requires environmental study on major projects. 

Stauber’s bill would mandate that environmental assessments be completed within a year, environmental impact statements within two years, and that lawsuits attempting to stop mining projects be filed within 120 days of a permitting decision.

It is supported by a number of industry groups, including the American Exploration and Mining Association, the National Mining Association and the Uranium Producers of America. 

Part of the challenge with hard rock mining specifically is that the industry is governed by a law from 1872, making it ripe for updates. (“Any law where part of the title is 1872, nobody could accuse you of rushing into anything,” Amodei quipped.) 

Democrats, including House Natural Resources ranking member Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), want to reform the process to create a leasing system and mandate royalty payments for mining companies on federal lands. And tribal nations want more recourse throughout the process, including being consulted on the development of new mines and ensuring their boundaries are respected.

Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV), who serves on the House Natural Resources Committee, said streamlining the permitting process for renewable energy projects will be necessary, and that she is particularly interested in clarifying the process through a whole-of-government approach, so that companies do not have to handle overlapping requests from various agencies. 

But she said House Republicans’ bills are clearly intended to cut down on environmental regulations for oil and gas exclusively, and thus, are not serious proposals that can draw bipartisan support. Lee has voted against reporting House Republican energy bills out of committee.

“These bills that have been introduced are really just statements [that] we’re not going to support a conversion to renewable energy … and we don’t want to honor NEPA” she said.

Lee added there are “aspects” of NEPA that she is open to change, but that House Republicans’ bills go too far towards disarming community input and shortening the length of time for lawsuits.

“I’m willing to talk about [NEPA], but what’s on the table isn’t close,” she said.

Nevada, as the only state with an active lithium mine, is a critical juncture for the debate over permitting reform. The Biden administration has raised the alarm about the U.S.’ dependence on China for lithium, particularly as he pushes for electric vehicles, which require lithium batteries, as part of his overall clean energy transition goals. Developing and permitting any future sites, as well as continuing to support the controversial Thacker Pass Lithium Mine outside of Winnemucca, is in the president’s interest.

Amodei said he believes in the need for NEPA, but that when it gets “abused as a weapon” against permitting, it injects a lack of predictability into the energy sector – causing businesses to open in countries with much lower environmental and labor standards.

“In Nevada, lithium’s kind of a big deal,” Amodei said. “It sure sounds and feels like nobody gives a rip about whether lithium’s part of the e-future or not, in terms of making it as difficult as possible [to get a permit].”

Cardinal Mark in action

As the chair, or cardinal, of the Appropriations Committee’s Legislative Branch Subcommittee, Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) began convening budget hearings to receive requests from the various agencies under his jurisdiction.

This week, Amodei and subcommittee members heard from the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan agency that provides budgetary estimates to Congress, the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights, which oversees workplace protections for legislative branch employees, and the Government Publishing Office, which publishes and produces documents for all three branches.

This week’s hearings were Amodei’s first opportunity to run hearings as the subcommittee’s highest-ranking member, an honor accrued through seniority and, typically, loyalty to the committee chair and party leadership. The “small but mighty” subcommittee, as members often refer to it, moves the smallest of the 12 appropriations bills, and thus, typically is brought to the full committee first.

Amodei ran the budget hearings smoothly and with an emphasis on bipartisanship. He let Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), the ranking member, give opening remarks at the first hearing, and he called on members by the order in which they arrived rather than adhering to seniority. 

In the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) hearing, he also said that as the first bill to move, his subcommittee’s bill will be informative for how long the amendment process could take, now that House Republican leadership has promised open rules, in which anyone can bring an amendment to the floor. That process could affect operations at the CBO, which provides budgetary estimates on those amendments.

“Historically, this committee goes first, so you’ve got a little bit of a guinea pig,” Amodei said. 

In an interview, he added that if the amendment process is time-consuming for the legislative branch bill, it would be a clear indication that having open rules for bigger bills – like those covering defense or health care spending – could seriously lengthen the budget process.

Around the Capitol

It’s been a busy week for Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen on abortion access. The two co-sponsored the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade, and both have taken on Walgreens over the corporation’s announcement that it would not sell mifepristone – an abortion medication – in 20 states, including some where abortion remains legal. Both senators sent letters to Walgreens’ CEO expressing their opposition. Cortez Masto also wrote an abortion pill-focused op-ed in Elle magazine.

Rosen introduced a package of bills – each with a Republican co-sponsor – to address health care shortages in Nevada and other states. The bills would incentivize medical residency programs to include areas with physician shortages, and allow student loan repayments and pauses for medical residents and physicians in rural areas.

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) joined Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and others as Tlaib re-introduced the Justice for All Act, which aims to restore and expand upon the protections of landmark civil rights legislation to target racial discrimination.

Rep. Dina Titus and Rep. Susie Lee introduced bipartisan legislation to target fentanyl drug smuggling at the border by mandating more frequent drug inspection guidance from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

Cortez Masto aligned herself with the position of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) that the next member of the Federal Reserve board should be Latino. The departure of Lael Brainard to be the director of the National Economic Council has left a vacancy.

In her questioning of Jerome Powell, Cortez Masto pressed the Federal Reserve chair to explain to the average Nevada family why setting a goal of 2 percent inflation is so important, and whether the monetary tools at his disposal could raise unemployment and decrease homeownership. It wasn’t as heated as Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) questioning of Powell on whether the Fed’s interest rate hikes will trigger unemployment, but, using the cost of housing as an example, she hit on some of the same themes.

In an emotional House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan where members heard from veterans, Titus criticized the 16 Republicans who voted against expanding the special immigration visa (SIV) program to fast-track the immigration process for Afghans who helped the U.S. over the course of the military’s involvement there. She said the committee should direct its energy towards expanding and reforming the SIV process.

Cortez Masto introduced a bill with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) to allow DACA recipients and Temporary Protected Status recipients to participate in congressional internships.

Titus gave a floor speech honoring the legacy of disability rights activist Judy Heumann. The two had worked together on legislation protecting the rights of disabled people – an issue Titus is considered a congressional leader.

Campaign Watch

We’re barely three months into 2023, but 2024 is already on strategists and candidates’ minds. Here are a few campaign-related tidbits from the week:

NRCC has entered the chat: The National Republican Congressional Committee released digital ads targeting Reps. Dina Titus (D-NV) and Steven Horsford (D-NV), among others, for their votes against a resolution overturning the Washington, D.C. criminal code – a decision they, along with the majority of the Democratic caucus, made before President Biden said he would support the resolution. 

What happens in Vegas …: will partially stay in Vegas, when President Biden touches down on March 14. He’ll host a private fundraiser – where he hopes to raise $1 million – as well as a public event on March 15, where he’ll speak about lowering the cost of prescription drug prices.

Showing his cards: Biden is not the only unannounced 2024 candidate making a stop in Nevada. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is coming to Stoney’s dance hall on Saturday afternoon as part of his book-tour-cum-soft-launch, and he got support from an old friend. Former roommate Adam Laxalt invited supporters to attend the event and give the probable Trump primary opponent a “warm, Nevada welcome.”

Come Helgelien or high water: We have our first announcement for a House seat – Republican former state Sen. Elizabeth Helgelien launched a campaign for Rep. Susie Lee’s seat in Nevada’s 3rd congressional district. Her announcement ad did not mention Lee, though it did show former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and criticized Biden for not shooting down the Chinese spy balloon fast enough.

2022 snafu: Rep. Mark Amodei’s (R-NV) treasurer received a letter from the Federal Election Commission saying an October campaign finance report was missing some employer and occupation information for individuals who donated over $200. He has until April 10 to comply.

On the front lines: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named 29 House Democrats to its Frontline program, which provides Democrats in vulnerable districts with resources to defend their seats. Reps. Susie Lee (D-NV) and Steven Horsford (D-NV) – both of whom won their races by less than 5 points – were included.

Notable and Quotable

“After speaking directly with Secretary Mayorkas, I explained that the detention of children, migrants or otherwise, in private prison facilities is unconscionable and shouldn’t be the policy of the DHS. I strongly urge him and the administration to ensure our nation steers clear of using these facilities.”

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), on reports that the Biden administration was considering reinstating former President Donald Trump’s family detention policy for migrants

Legislative Tracker

The Week Ahead

The House is out next week.

SEN. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO

Sponsored:

S.672 – A bill to enable the payment of certain officers and employees of the United States whose employment is authorized pursuant to a grant of deferred action, deferred enforced departure, or temporary protected status.

S.706 – A bill to withdraw the National Forest System land in the Ruby Mountains subdistrict of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and the National Wildlife Refuge System land in Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Elko and White Pine Counties, Nevada, from operation under the mineral leasing laws.

S.Res.104 – A resolution recognizing the heritage, culture, and contributions of Latinas in the United States.

Co-sponsored:

S.701 – A bill to protect a person’s ability to determine whether to continue or end a pregnancy, and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide abortion services.

S.728 – A bill to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, and for other purposes.

S.735 – A bill to strengthen the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

S.737 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to end the tax subsidy for employer efforts to influence their workers’ exercise of their rights around labor organizations and engaging in collective action.

S.738 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow workers an above-the-line deduction for union dues and expenses and to allow miscellaneous itemized deduction for workers for all unreimbursed expenses incurred in the trade or business of being an employee.

S.744 – A bill to establish duties for online service providers with respect to end user data that such providers collect and use.

S.746 – A bill to modify the prohibition on recognition by United States courts of certain rights relating to certain marks, trade names, or commercial names.

S.761 – A bill to combat forced organ harvesting and trafficking in persons for purposes of the removal of organs, and for other purposes.

SEN. JACKY ROSEN

Sponsored:

S.662 – A bill to amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to create a new national program to support mid-career workers, including workers from underrepresented populations, in reentering the STEM workforce, by providing funding to small- and medium-sized STEM businesses so the businesses can offer paid internships or other returnships that lead to positions above entry level.

S.673 – A bill to allow nonprofit child care providers to participate in certain loan programs of the Small Business Administration, and for other purposes.

S.703 – A bill to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to make improvements to the redistribution of residency slots under the Medicare program after a hospital closes.

S.704 – A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for interest-free deferment on student loans for borrowers serving in a medical or dental internship or residency program.

S.705 – A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to authorize a loan repayment program to encourage specialty medicine physicians to serve in rural communities experiencing a shortage of specialty medicine physicians, and for other purposes.

Co-sponsored:

S.665 – A bill to provide incentives to physicians to practice in rural and medically underserved communities, and for other purposes.

S.Res.96 – A resolution celebrating the extraordinary accomplishments and vital role of women business owners in the United States.

S.706 – A bill to withdraw the National Forest System land in the Ruby Mountains subdistrict of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and the National Wildlife Refuge System land in Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Elko and White Pine Counties, Nevada, from operation under the mineral leasing laws.

S.707 – A bill to amend the Animal Welfare Act to allow for the retirement of certain animals used in Federal research, and for other purposes.

S.712 – A bill to identify and address barriers to coverage of remote physiologic devices under State Medicaid programs to improve maternal and child health outcomes for pregnant and postpartum women.

S.Res.104 – A resolution recognizing the heritage, culture, and contributions of Latinas in the United States.

S.701 – A bill to protect a person’s ability to determine whether to continue or end a pregnancy, and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide abortion services.

S.728 – A bill to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, and for other purposes.

S.738 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow workers an above-the-line deduction for union dues and expenses and to allow a miscellaneous itemized deduction for workers for all unreimbursed expenses incurred in the trade or business of being an employee.

REP. DINA TITUS

Co-sponsored:

H.Res.200 – Condemning the horrific shootings that occurred in Monterey Park, California, on January 21, 2023, and in Half Moon Bay, California, on January 23, 2023, honoring the memory of the victims of the attacks, expressing condolences and support to all those impacted by these tragedies, and reaffirming the House of Representatives’ commitment to supporting the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community.

H.R.1387 – To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to increase civics education programs, and for other purposes.

H.R.1401 – To require the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to regularly review and update policies and manuals related to inspections at ports of entry.

H.R.1405 – To improve services for trafficking victims by establishing, in Homeland Security Investigations, the Investigators Maintain Purposeful Awareness to Combat Trafficking Trauma Program and the Victim Assistance Program.

H.R.1428 – To amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to repeal the prohibition for certain individuals convicted of a felony offense to participate in hemp production, and for other purposes.

H.Res.209 – Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the importance of taking a feminist approach to all aspects of foreign policy, including foreign assistance and humanitarian response, trade, diplomacy, defense, immigration, funding, and accountability mechanisms.

H.R.1447 – To prohibit an employer from terminating the coverage of an employee under a group health plan while the employer is engaged in a lock-out or while the employee is engaged in a lawful strike, and for other purposes.

H.R.1465 – To amend the Animal Welfare Act to allow for the adoption or non-laboratory placement of certain animals used in Federal research, and for other purposes.

H.Con.Res.22 – Recognizing the significance of equal pay and the disparity between wages paid to men and women.

H.R.1478 – To modernize the business of selling firearms.

H.R.1499 – To require small, medium, and large hub airports to certify that airport service workers are paid the prevailing wage and provided fringe benefits, and for other purposes.

H.R.1504 – To amend the Apex Project, Nevada Land Transfer and Authorization Act of 1989 to include the City of North Las Vegas and the Apex Industrial Park Owners Association, and for other purposes.

H.R.1510 – To amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to repeal the particular work requirement that disqualifies able-bodied adults for eligibility to participate in the supplemental nutrition assistance program.

REP. MARK AMODEI

Co-sponsored:

H.R.1504 – To amend the Apex Project, Nevada Land Transfer and Authorization Act of 1989 to include the City of North Las Vegas and the Apex Industrial Park Owners Association, and for other purposes.

REP. SUSIE LEE

Co-sponsored:

H.Res.198 – Recognizing Girl Scouts of the United States of America on its 111th birthday and celebrating its legacy of providing girls with a safe, inclusive space where they can explore their world, build meaningful relationships, and have access to experiences that prepare them for a life of leadership.

H.Res.200 – Condemning the horrific shootings that occurred in Monterey Park, California, on January 21, 2023, and in Half Moon Bay, California, on January 23, 2023, honoring the memory of the victims of the attacks, expressing condolences and support to all those impacted by these tragedies, and reaffirming the House of Representatives’ commitment to supporting the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community.

H.R.1401 – To require the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to regularly review and update policies and manuals related to inspections at ports of entry.

H.Res.215 – Recognizing the cultural and historical significance of Nowruz.

H.Con.Res.22 – Recognizing the significance of equal pay and the disparity between wages paid to men and women.

H.R.1504 – To amend the Apex Project, Nevada Land Transfer and Authorization Act of 1989 to include the City of North Las Vegas and the Apex Industrial Park Owners Association, and for other purposes.

REP. STEVEN HORSFORD

Sponsored:

H.R.1504 – To amend the Apex Project, Nevada Land Transfer and Authorization Act of 1989 to include the City of North Las Vegas and the Apex Industrial Park Owners Association, and for other purposes.

Co-sponsored:

H.Con.Res.22 – Recognizing the significance of equal pay and the disparity between wages paid to men and women.

The post D.C. Download: How House Republicans’ energy permitting reform could affect Nevada appeared first on The Nevada Independent.

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