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Zeroing In on House Republicans’ Energy Agenda

Now that Republicans have taken the House, it looks like we’ll be seeing a very different approach to energy and climate change policy next year, to put it mildly.

While it’s unclear exactly what presumptive House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) energy agenda will be, we can get some idea of his thinking from the American Energy Act, a bill introduced by House Republicans last year as an alternative to cap-and-trade.

Here are the four main point of the bill, according to a summary:

  • “Increase production of American-made energy in an environmentally-sound manner.”
  • “Promote new, clean and renewable sources of energy such as nuclear, clean-coal-technology, wind and solar energy.”
  • “Encourage greater efficiency and conservation by extending tax incentives for energy efficiency and rewarding development of greater conservation techniques and new energy sources.”
  • “Cut red-tape and reduce frivolous litigation.”

Expect a great deal of discussion about expanding nuclear power. The House Republican bill calls for bringing 100 new nuclear power plants online in the next 20 years and streamlining the approval process at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. At the same time, the bill calls on the NRC to continue its review of the embattled Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository “without political interference,” a clear reference to the Obama administration’s efforts to prevent the site from accepting waste.

The bill also calls for expanded drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf and in the Arctic (this bill, of course, was introduced before the oil spill, so it remains to be seen how it would change as a result of the disaster). House Republicans would then use revenue from increased drilling to create a fund for renewable and “alternative” energy technology like wind, solar, so-called “clean coal” and biomass.

The proposal also calls for “cutting red tape and reducing frivolous lawsuits.” This includes curtailing environmental reviews and limiting the review time allowed in environmental lawsuits. Here are two key sections from the summary:

Legal Reform: The bill curtails dilatory lawsuits that are designed to obstruct American energy exploration. While ensuring people a day in court, it expedites judicial review by imposing a 60-day deadline on legal challenges and requires cases to be filed in the District Court for the District of Columbia, to prevent forum shopping. …

Environmental Review: The bill reduces red-tape and cost to the Environmental Protection Agency arising from having to needlessly identify alternative locations for renewable energy projects, while ensuring a proper environmental review for the proposed action and no-action.

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