On Heels of Big Oil’s Record-Breaking Profits, Committee Republicans Hold Hearing on Expanding Fossil Fuel Development Even Further

Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Natural Resources Committee Republican majority held the Committee’s first oversight hearing to examine how Congress and the federal government can enable even more oil and gas drilling and mining on public lands and waters. Over the past few weeks, four of the biggest oil companies—Exxon, Shell, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips—reported their highest profits in history, making $1 trillion in sales in 2022. Meanwhile, climate disasters cost the country $165 billion over the same year.

Committee Democrats invited the following witnesses, who spoke to the impacts of unchecked fossil fuel development and mining activity on environmental justice communities and Indigenous peoples:

  • Dana Johnson, Senior Director of Strategy and Federal Policy, WE ACT for Environmental Justice. Her written testimony is available here.
  • The Honorable Reno Franklin, Chairman, Kashia Band of Pomo Indians & Member, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Santa Rosa, CA. His written testimony is available here.

Committee Republicans spent much of the hearing blaming the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for delays in energy development. According to the Congressional Research Service, however, 95 percent of public infrastructure projects are actually exempted from full, detailed NEPA review.  Project delays are more often caused by a lack of funding or state and local laws, not NEPA.

A fact sheet on NEPA is available here.

Ranking Member Grijalva’s opening statement at today’s hearing is below:

“There was a moment yesterday during the President’s State of the Union speech before Congress that I thought was almost like an epiphany.

We reached the discussion about common ground, and that common ground effectively said Social Security and Medicare are off the table, we don’t have to worry about those being part of any cut list. And we’re all going to work together to make them stronger.

I thought that was a rare and good moment in which—at least on the surface—seemed to have the vast support of all the members of Congress that were there. That was a special moment. And I would hope that as we look at the issues that are before us today and before the jurisdiction of this Committee, we look to try to find some common ground on some issues. But I don’t think today is one of them.

Last week, four Big Oil giants — Exxon, Shell, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips — reported their largest profits in history. Together, these fossil fuel goliaths made over a trillion in sales in 2022.

Needless to say, Big Oil had a good year.

On the other hand, the climate did not.

The drying of the West showed no signs of slowing down, sending Colorado River reservoirs into historic shortages. And demanding of the federal gov and Congress that they intervene in that crisis that continues to grow, the drought in the West.

The hurricane that battered Puerto Rico, ripped through Florida, making it the deadliest hurricane to hit the state since 1935.

All told, the cost of climate disasters in the U.S. totaled $165 billion dollars last year and claimed far too many lives.

Climate change is a public health, safety, environmental, and existential crisis like we have never known before.

And I think because of that, Democrats on this Committee continue to push the issue that climate must be a central focus of any legislative considerations. And that the progress that we’ve made into a transition away from total dependency on fossil fuels—80-85 percent as the Chairman said—to renewable, alternative energy sources that are clean and healthy for the world and for the American people, that continues to be central, central, in what Democrats in this Committee will continue to advocate for, fight for, and push for legislatively.

This Committee helped pass the most significant investment in climate action in history with the Inflation Reduction Act. The Democrats in this Committee.

The IRA includes $369 billion in investments for communities hit hardest.

That includes $4 billion to address the drought in the West, almost $3 billion to build more resilient coastal communities, and of importance to the discussion today, to boost federal permitting offices and environmental review processes, so that the self-fulfilling prophecy of no resources, no staff, and permitting taking longer and longer feeds the same argument over and over again—that somehow this is a deliberate attack on energy reduction in this company—a billion dollars to bring that permitting process, expedite that process, is in there. And we should support its implementation.

We made great headway in taking serious action on climate. But it looks like my colleagues across the aisle won’t be building on that momentum anytime soon.

Instead, they’ve decided to dedicate their first hearing — their first message to the American people — on how to make it easier for polluters to prosper in this country.

During today’s hearing, you will hear about the need to, quote-unquote, “streamline permitting,” and to, quote, “unleash our energy potential.”

But before we get all hung up on these catchy slogans and they lure us into a “drill baby drill” frenzy, let’s call them what they are.

They’re nothing more than dirty industry’s newest buzzwords, designed to trick the American people into giving them what they want.

And what do these industries want?

They want to hoard more of our public lands, despite the fact that the fossil fuel industry already has thousands of approved permits across 26 million acres that they aren’t even using.

They want to, quote, “streamline” permitting by stripping us of public input—the public’s right to know—despite the fact that they already ignore and trample all over environmental justice communities.

They want to fast-track drilling and mining projects, so they can make more money, more easily, despite the fact that they are already raking in trillions by taking corporate handouts and ripping off American taxpayers.

And they want Republicans to do their bidding to make it happen, which they seem all too willing to do.

But no matter what happens, no matter what Republicans want, the American people have a different vision for the future. And that involves dealing with the climate crisis, continuing the momentum toward a transition away from fossil fuels and making center in all discussions and legislative actions going forward, what does this do and how does this abate, mitigate, and remediate the issues around the climate crisis. 

With that, Mr. Chairman, thank you. I yield back.”

Press Contact

Contact: Lindsay Gressard