This vote was on an amendment that would cut back requirements for an environmental review for geothermal energy projects on publicly owned land.
Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) offered the amendment to a Republican bill that would open vast new stretches of federally owned territory to energy exploration. Rep. Labrador’s amendment would exempt geothermal projects from normal environmental reviews. Instead, the U.S. Department of Interior would be given 10 days to give the go-ahead to the project.
Rep. Labrador argued that the current environmental review process stifles expansion of geothermal energy because it can sometimes take as long as 2 years to complete. Cutting down on that process will help expand the use of a renewable form of energy, supporters of the amendment said.
“As our nation heads down the path of energy security, we should be facilitating the development of renewable energy on federal land,” Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) said. “This is a good amendment that could potentially shave years off the process of geothermal energy exploration and contribute to our increasing domestic energy portfolio in the United States.”
Democrats argued that it was not necessary to cut down on environmental review, and warned that the move would lead to problems for the geothermal industry. Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) pointed to the natural gas industry as an example, noting that an environmental review exemption for a process known as hydraulic fracturing led to a black eye for the industry when problems arose.
“We're all for geothermal. There's nobody on this side that's opposed to geothermal. We think it is a really good resource,” Rep. Garamendi said. “What we're talking about here is tapping a hot portion of the Earth and extracting from that the energy that's possible. Do it with care, because there is the potential for very serious problems if you do it incorrectly.”
Rep. Labrador’s amendment was passed by a vote of 244-177. Voting “yea” were 230 Republicans and 14 Democrats. Voting “nay” were 172 Democrats, including a majority of progressives, and 5 Republicans. As a result, the House moved forward with legislation that would drastically reduce environmental review of geothermal energy projects.