Searching for Common Ground between Energy Security and Environmental Justice 


The Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on February 7, 2023, titled Unleashing American Energy, Lowering Energy Costs, and Strengthening Supply Chains. During this hearing, the committee discussed 17 proposed bills. Several bills aim to remediate shortages and high prices by addressing the importance of American energy by creating waivers to reduce red tape and measures to support American energy production as well as exports into the global market. Industry experts and committee members agree that changes must be made but they seek common ground to create energy security while maintaining safeguards for environmental justice. 

Key Items: 

  • Protecting American Energy Production Act: prohibits the President from declaring a moratorium on fracking.  
  • Natural Gas Tax Repeal Act: repeals natural gas tax from Clean Air Act. 
  • Promoting Cross-border Energy Infrastructure Act: establishes a more uniform, transparent, and modern process to authorize the construction, connection, operation, and maintenance of international border-crossing facilities for the import and export of oil and natural gas and the transmission of electricity. It also replaces the presidential permit process with a statutorily directed process.  
  • Securing America’s Critical Minerals Supply Act: requires the Secretary of Energy to conduct an ongoing assessment of the nation’s critical energy resources, diversifying sourcing and increasing domestic production. 


Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers opened the hearing by stating, “Our goal on Energy and Commerce is to ensure reliable, secure, and affordable energy is available to power homes and businesses across the country.” Many members of the committee and witnesses from both sides of the aisle agreed that there must be changes to improve the regulatory process. The goal is to improve permitting times and fix limitations on the supply chain. The solution is to have energy security through more reliable sources of energy. As Chairwoman Rodgers points out, “America has been blessed with an abundance of natural resources.” Chairwoman Rodgers urged the committee to work towards developing a predictable regulatory landscape across the board that inspires innovation, and technological leadership with a mix of energy sources such as hydropower, nuclear, fossil energies, wind, solar, and batteries. Unlike the current system of red tape that delays constructing new energy projects, withholds capital opportunities, and kills innovation.  

Additionally, Subcommittee Chair Jeff Duncan adds “Just over 2 years ago, America was energy dominant for the first time since 1952. We were the largest energy producer in the world while also leading the world in emission reductions.” A stark contrast to the rushed green energy transition filled with policies that have resulted in blackouts and price spikes. The rush to green policies has prioritized climate goals over reliable and affordable energy.  


Energy is a geopolitical issue. The nation is vulnerable to oil and gas supply disruptions. Political efforts to reduce American production of gas and oil will not reduce demand or emissions. Reducing domestic supply will only lead to an increased dependency on imported energy. President Biden has repeatedly stated he would stop fracking. This would be detrimental to the energy security of the US. Chair Duncan is leading the Protecting American Energy Production Act that would prohibit the President from using a moratorium on fracking. Likewise, the Securing America’s Critical Minerals Supply Act directs the Secretary to strengthen critical energy resource supply chains by diversifying sourcing and increasing domestic production. This is in response to the Biden Administration’s goal to be carbon-free by 2035 by pushing “zero-emission” vehicles is incompatible with the insufficient supply of minerals necessary to support such goals.  

It is commonly agreed that not harvesting domestic energy is leading the US to be more reliant on countries like Russia and others who have contradictory political values than the US. The manufacturing of these critical minerals by refining and processing them are mainly controlled by countries like China and Russia. Depending on countries like Russia and China gives them leverage to advance their authoritarian agenda. These bills are meant to reorient the law to reestablish America’s energy dominance without weakening America’s global leadership in advancing our high environmental and labor standards. The goal is to reshoring critical energy mineral manufacturing to achieve energy security. Smartly using our resources will lead to an increase in job growth and expand America’s leverage around the world.  


Witness Raul Garcia, Legislative Director for Healthy Communities at Earthjustice, argues that these bills provide far too many exceptions for industries that can cause harm. He continues to stress the fact that these laws Congress is trying to waive, are set in place to protect communities. These laws such as Clean Air Act (CAA), the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and the Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA) would all be affected by the proposed 17 bills. These are safeguards that are set in place to protect the health and safety of communities. Admittingly so, industry experts admit they would not hold such standards if those regulations were not in place. 

Additionally, Garcia goes on to point out the vagueness of the proposed bills in determining critical minerals. At any given point, anything can be deemed critical. “Critical energy resource is an open-ended and undefined concept that could apply to virtually any chemical,” said Garcia. Instead, the Department of Energy would have the discretion to make the determination of what is deemed a critical energy resource. In turn, the EPA and DOI would have their authority handed over to the Department of Energy to consider metrics mainly in economics or energy security rather than environmental impacts. 

Garcia goes on to call attention to the various waivers proposed by these bills. They would waive environmental and health requirements set by law. Environmental protections exist to ensure energy production is safe for neighboring communities and the environment as a whole. Those in favor of environmental protections do not oppose energy production. However, environmentalists do not agree with this set of proposed bills and oppose going backward in environmental progress.  

One way to address these concerns is to develop and deploy new energy technologies that could deliver the energy needs of communities without safety and health risks. It is possible to use advanced technological capabilities to create responsible, safe, clean energy development and deliver it across the country in a way that protects communities’ health and the future. To pull from the words of Mr. Garcia, “We reject the false choice between energy creation and human health. We can and must have both.”    


American energy security and affordability are one of the top issues expressed by American households. Aside from unleashing American energy production, infrastructure to transport natural gas to where it is needed is also vital. Current pipelines are running at full capacity. Demand continues to grow although we lack the proper infrastructure to get to American homes. Cross-border infrastructure like pipelines are better options compared to less than ideal means of transportation like rail which produces more emissions. Furthermore, natural gas and oil help fill in the gaps when renewable energy is unavailable.  

There has been a misconception that producing American energy and reducing emissions are mutually exclusive. On the contrary, America produces cleaner energy than anywhere in the world.  Policies in place to suppress oil and gas production will be counterproductive to tackling gas emissions. While emissions must be managed, using natural gas has helped in reducing emissions domestically. If natural gas were to be used more widely internationally, it promises to improve overall greenhouse gas emissions. Even as other energy sectors grow, there will always be a need for reliable energy to maintain energy security. 

Lastly, the common ground between environmentalists and the energy industry lies within innovation. There are valid concerns regarding community safety and health risks associated with relaxing regulations in the energy industry. On the other hand, opening these sectors can lead to entrepreneurship and innovation. This innovation would be necessary to develop new energy technologies that can satisfy our energy needs while producing less harm to communities and the environment.