House should reject refinery bill

Submitted by Rafael DeGennaro on Wed, 2006-05-03 00:05.

Right now is a great example of what’s wrong with Congress. It’s 12:10 am EDT on Wednesday, May 3. The Congress Daily email for May 3 (sent 17 minutes ago) reports that Congress will consider today a bill to “speed up the permitting and approval process for petroleum refineries”. Congress feels under pressure to do something quick and dirty about gas prices.

Congress Daily says the bill was introduced Tuesday, May 2. I just searched the Library of Congress Thomas system (thomas.loc.gov) for bills introduced by Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX) and Charles Bass (R-NH). No refinery bill is listed. The bill is not on the website of the House Rules Committee as of 12:47 am.

That means that the general public and independent experts cannot know what is in the bill. I assume the standard committee report does not exist at all. Even if a few members of Congress and independent experts could have obtained copies of the bill from the Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday, there is not enough time to understand it properly before is scheduled consideration today.

Maybe the bill is wonderful. Maybe it is terrible. (ReadtheBill.org takes no position on policy matters.) Maybe it’s great except for one short, terrible section. Maybe it is similar to last year’s refinery bill, but the Congress Daily story says, “It differs from last year’s House-passed refinery bill in several ways….” Without a bill and committee report, it is impossible for the general public and independent experts to clearly understand how it differs.

Those who say that only final conference reports should be posted on the Internet (including some Democrats) should think about this case. Should not this refinery bill also be posted online for 72 hours so it can be properly read?

To show you how twisted Washington, DC has become, this process is considered normal by Congress and the news media. It would be extraordinary if the House rejected the bill because it had not been properly read. But that’s exactly what the House should do.

Excerpts from Congress Daily follow:

National Journal’s CongressDailyAM
Issue date: Wednesday, May 3, 2006

ENERGY
“GOP’s $100 Rebate Plan Runs Out Of Gas”
[…]
Meanwhile, the House today will take up two Republican energy
bills under suspension of the rules. One of them, which seeks to
speed up the permitting and approval process for petroleum
refineries, was introduced Tuesday by Energy and Commerce
Chairman Barton and Rep. Charles Bass, R-N.H.

It differs from last year’s House-passed refinery bill in
several ways, including the absence of language allowing
refiners to be compensated for legal costs if they win a lawsuit
challenging the denial or stalling of a refinery project. If the
measure does not get the two-thirds vote needed to pass on the
suspension calendar, a spokesman said Bass would try to move it
under regular order.

UPDATE: At 9:30 am EDT on Wed. May 3, the text of H.R. 5254, introduced by Rep. Bass, is available on Thomas. No committee report exists because the bill was never reported by any committee. Neither the public nor members have adequate time to understand this bill. It should still be rejected if considered this week.

Tags: Energy