Recent high gasoline prices have made a compelling case for reducing U.S. dependence on oil. However, instead of working to reduce that dependence, some members of Congress have blamed price spikes on public health and environmental laws, which they wrongly contend have caused a shortage of refinery capacity. In fact, tight capacity has been persuasively linked to oil refiners’ own economic decisions.
Nevertheless, to accelerate the application process for building refineries, Representatives Charles Bass (R-NH) and Joe Barton (R-TX) introduced H.R.5254, the Refinery Permit Process Schedule Act. The bill, pushed through without committee consideration and with only minimal floor debate, could undermine the public health and environmental permitting decisions by state and federal officials and would give oil companies the right to sue public health officials in order to speed up refinery projects.
On June 7, 2006, the House approved H.R. 5254 by a 238-179 vote (House roll call vote 232). NO is the pro-environment vote. The Senate did not approve a companion bill.