By the narrowest margin, 212 to 210, the House passed legislation that encourages the construction of oil refineries and simplifies the environmental review process. No Democrats voted for the bill and 13 Republicans bucked party leadership to oppose it. The bill, sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Joe Barton (R.-Tex.) in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, includes provisions that Senate Democrats struck from the energy bill that Congress passed in July, leaving the new bill’s ultimate fate uncertain. Barton’s bill grants the Energy Department control over refinery permits, a provision that is expected to meet resistance in the Senate.
The bill’s passage came after House Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R.-Calif.) was thwarted by the House leadership in his attempt to add language approved by his committee that would have allowed the desperately needed offshore energy development now blocked by a federal moratorium. Florida’s entire congressional supported by Gov. Jeb Bush (R.), objected to Pombo’s measure.