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Colorado delegation splits on party lines as GOP-controlled House OK's Boebert-sponsored energy bill

Lauren Boebert says bill she co-sponsored will lower energy costs, but Democrats deride HR 1 as giveaway to big oil companies

AP Photo (Cliff Owen)

By Ernest Luning Colorado Politics 3.30.23

Thank You, Congresswoman Boebert!! (LY)

Members of Colorado's U.S. House delegation voted along party lines Thursday on a sweeping, Republican-led energy package hailed by GOP lawmakers as an accelerant for domestic fossil fuel production and disparaged by Democrats as a massive giveaway to big oil companies and reversal of the party's climate policies. Dubbed the Lower Energy Costs Act, HR 1 passed by a 225-204 vote, with four Democrats joining the Republican majority and just one Republican voting against it. The bill heads to the Democratic-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York has declared it "dead on arrival." President Joe Biden has threatened to veto the bill, saying it replaces clean energy investments passed in the last Congress with "a thinly veiled license to pollute." The bill would encourage domestic oil, natural gas and coal production, largely on public lands, while easing restrictions on permits to build energy infrastructure projects, such as pipelines and refineries. It also seeks to increase production and processing of critical minerals used in batteries and electronic devices, including lithium, nickel and cobalt. "My bills will lower energy costs and streamline the process for critical infrastructure projects," said U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Silt Republican, who co-sponsored the legislation and introduced two amendments incorporated in the final bill, in a statement. "These bills will provide certainty for responsible energy production and transportation while preventing frivolous litigation, all in an effort to make America energy independent once again, reduce gas prices for Coloradans, and allow important infrastructure projects to get done." One of Boebert's amendments would cut the period to request a judicial review of a permit or approval for major infrastructure projects from 150 to 90 days. The other condemns Oregon's decision to block the proposed Jordan Cove Pipeline, designed to transport liquified natural gas from Western states to the Oregon coast for export. Both were adopted with bipartisan support. U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, a Centennial Democrat, derided the bill as a step in the wrong direction. "The climate crisis is a pressing national security concern, but HR 1, the 'Polluters Over People' Act, moves us backwards," Crow said on Twitter. "I voted no because it slashes bedrock environmental protections that keep Coloradans’ air and water clean & makes Americans less safe from climate change." Democratic U.S. Rep. Yadira Caraveo, the first-term lawmaker from Thornton who represents parts of Weld County, the state's top oil- and gas-producing county, immediately came under fire from Republican groups for voting against the bill. "Yadira Caraveo chose the extreme left again," said Melanie Bomar, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, in an emailed statement. "House Republicans are delivering for the American people by working towards combating the Democrats’ unaffordable energy prices." The spokeswoman for a House GOP-aligned group that spent heavily earlier this month urging Caraveo to support the bill tore into the incumbent in a statement. “Instead of voting to make life more affordable for Coloradans and fortifying American national security, Yadira Caraveo sided with the left’s extreme agenda that is sending energy prices through the roof and making us dependent on foreign countries for our most critical energy resources,” said Courtney Parella, communications director for American Action Network. “Good luck to Caraveo explaining this back home," she added. Caraveo told Colorado Politics that Republicans appeared to be more interested in scoring political points than in lowering energy costs. “Colorado is a national leader on oil and gas production, which is a huge contributor to our economy and employs hundreds of thousands of hardworking people across the state. I will always represent the best interests of my District," she said in an emailed statement. "I would support a comprehensive energy package that truly lowers costs for everyday families and undertakes bipartisan permitting reform to cut bureaucratic red tape and help businesses. Unfortunately, HR 1 doesn’t meet the mark," she continued. "Instead, it could worsen toxic pollution in Colorado and it takes steps backwards on our climate goals. I’m disappointed Republican leadership has used this package to advance partisan priorities rather than our areas of agreement so we could make progress for our constituents." Added Caraveo: "I hope we can move forward from this vote and take a more serious look at the commonsense permitting reforms that many of us agree on.” U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, a Windsor Republican who also represents portions of Weld County, called the bill's passage in the House "a win for Colorado’s working families and those of us who believe in American energy independence" in a statement to Colorado Politics. "This legislation unleashes domestic energy production, streamlines our broken permitting process, cuts burdensome red tape, and bolsters the production and processing of critical minerals,” Buck said. U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican, also cheered the bill's approval. “At a time where hard-working Americans have had to suffer from the Biden Administration’s historically high energy prices and inflation, the Lower Energy Costs Act will provide the necessary relief for millions of families," he said in a statement. "By spurring the increased production of domestic energy and providing for permitting reform, Americans will once again have affordable energy and gas prices.” U.S. Rep. Brittany Pettersen, a Lakewood Democrat serving her first term, said the bill, which she opposed, would undo efforts to address climate change. “I’m committed to meeting the energy needs of our country and lowering energy costs," Pettersen said in a statement. "But House Republicans brought a bill to the floor today to give up our public lands for drilling and send us back decades in the fight against climate change." Pettersen added that she introduced an amendment "to protect Colorado from this type of drilling," but House leadership prevented it from coming to a floor vote. A spokeswoman for Caraveo told Colorado Politics that the Thornton Democrat proposed an amendment dealing with abandoned drilling sites that wasn't allowed to come to a vote, either. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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