Campaign 2010

Oct 06, 2005

How A Bill Becomes a Law: By Congressman Joe Barton

DCCC Press

Oct 6, 2005

How A Bill Becomes a Law: By Congressman Joe Barton

According to a New Report Today, Americans Are Paying More at the Pump but Getting a Free Lesson in How a Bill Becomes a Law in the Republican Congress

How a Barton Bill Becomes a Law:

1. Call special interests.

“Both power plant and oil refinery officials said they had begun lobbying for the bill’s passage at the request of [Energy Committee Chairman Joe] Barton’s aides.” [Washington Post, 10/6/05]

2. Rake in some cash.

$1,735,158: Energy money taken by Congressman Joe Barton. [Center for Responsive Politics]

3. Push a bogus policy.

“Some of the bill's biggest beneficiaries, however, said they welcome less regulation but cannot say whether it would translate into many new refineries…in a series of memos in the 1990s, major energy companies warned they needed to reduce the number of refineries to boost profits.” [Washington Post, 10/6/05]

4. Leave the American people behind.

$2.94: Average price per gallon of gas American families are paying today.

(Washington, D.C.) – Tomorrow, Republicans will introduce a bill on the floor of the House of Representatives that lays out plans to increase air pollution under the guise of increasing domestic oil production.

According to a new Washington Post report, the Republican effort to boost oil refineries will increase air pollution and experts say gas prices may not even go down. Even the leaders in the petroleum industry are say that this bill is not likely to boost capacity since the oil corporations made a business decision to reduce the number of refineries and therefore the bill will not bring down gas prices: “The United States has not built a refinery since 1976, and in a series of memos in the 1990s, major energy companies warned they needed to reduce the number of refineries to boost profits.” [Washington Post, 10/6/05]

“In what is only the latest example of Republican ‘let’s make a deal’ legislation, Congressman Joe Barton’s GAS Act sacrifices the air we breathe for petroleum corporation profits and doesn’t do anything to lower the price at the pump,” said Bill Burton, communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “With Americans already having to change their way of life because of gas prices, now is not the time for more special interest giveaways and rubber-stamp representation.”

Does Nothing to Lower Gas Prices. The only provision in the bill which even claims to deal with high gas prices is toothless and rolls back existing price gouging measures. The so-called price gouging provision is directed toward small retail gas station owners even though it is the large refineries posting record profits this year. The provision lacks real enforcement authority since it does not allow for state attorneys general to enforce the Federal law. Nor does it make market manipulation a cause of action. Finally, the provision fails to cover other fuels. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) has forecast natural gas prices to rise by 71 percent in the Midwest but natural gas, along with home heating oil and propane, are not even covered under the proposal.

Gives Gifts to a Refining Industry Making Record Profits. Even though the oil refinery industry has seen record profits, the bill provides a new "regulatory insurance subsidy" that could put taxpayers on the hook for unlimited damages if a refinery is stalled in litigation or must meet new regulatory standards. The bill would give away Federal lands and closed military bases to oil companies to build refineries, without allowing any public input. The real reason refineries haven’t added capacity in the past 30 years is because by removing capacity from the market, profit margins grow. We know that refinery margins are now at an all-time high, and new regulatory subsidies and special treatment for this industry are at best a dubious policy.

Guts the Clean Air Act & Preventing Pollution from Power Plants. The bill eliminates a key U.S. EPA Clean Air Act enforcement program for U.S. industries known as New Source Review that forces power plants to install modern air pollution technologies. The result will be more toxic pollutants like mercury in the air and water of communities living downwind from coal-fired power plants. According to Congressional Quarterly, “Some industry analysts question whether Clean Air rules need relaxing. They say the same market forces that resulted in consolidation in the number of U.S. refineries in recent decades are already spurring interest in expansion projects, even with today’s Clean Air guidelines.” [CQ Weekly, 10/3/05]