Transportation Bill: Oil & Gas Backed House Members Pass PIONEERS Act

admin | February 21, 2012

Feb. 20, 2012 - With the current "Highway bill" set to expire on March 31, Congress continues to work on a long-term transportation package designed to allocate funds for infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, ports, and public transit systems. Amongst other differences, the Senate bill (S 1813 - MAP-21) would provide funding for only 2 years, while the House bill (HR 7 - American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act) would extend it for 5 years.

One of the biggest remaining impediments to finalizing the bills has been the debate over how to fill the roughly $14 billion per-year funding gap that the federal gas tax, the main source of revenue for the Highway Trust Fund, cannot cover. Some proposals to cover this gap have included using revenues from new oil & gas drilling projects and reducing government contributions to federal employee pensions. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has issued a report on HR 7 that estimates that the bill as currently written would deplete the Highway Trust Fund by 2016. Other debates have revolved around whether to allow an increase in the weight limit for trucks on the interstate highway system and funding cuts for Amtrak.

The Split
On Tuesday it was revealed that the transportation, energy, and pension provisions in the bill will be voted on separately rather than as a single, large package. The three bills now to be considered on the House floor are: HR 3408 - PIONEERS Act, HR 3813 - SAFE Act, and HR 7. President Obama has threatened to veto HR 7 should it reach his desk as written.

MapLight has conducted an analysis of campaign contributions to members of Congress from interest groups invested in HR 3408 - PIONEERS Act, the energy portion of the House bill. This is the first part in a series of reports being conducted by MapLight on the transportation bills. The analysis includes contributions made between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2011 to members of the House of Representatives.

Oil & Gas and the PIONEERS Act
The House GOP leadership has proposed using revenues from new oil & gas drilling projects both offshore and in the ANWR Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to help cover the funding gap for their 5 year plan. However, recent reports by the CBO (available here for the shale oil, offshore and ANWR projects) show that the revenues from these projects will generate a maximum of only $4.3 billion over the span of an 8-10 year period. Despite this, House leadership has continued to press the issue of oil & gas drilling and has included approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline as part of the final bill. The PIONEERS Act is supported by the American Petroleum Institute, the American Public Gas Association, the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission, the Natural Gas Supply Association, and others such as ExxonMobil and BP.

  • Members of the U.S. House of Representatives received a total of $11,723,234 from interest groups representing the petroleum and natural gas industries. House Republicans have received $10,061,885, or 86 percent, while Democrats have received the remaining $1,661,349, or 14 percent.

Several amendments introduced by Democrats to the PIONEERS Act would have added restrictions to the as-yet approved Keystone XL pipeline, such as requiring any oil delivered through the pipeline to remain in the U.S. instead of being exported, requiring that 75% of the iron and steel needed for the pipeline come from U.S. sources, and requiring oil companies to submit a worst case scenario analysis of a spill when applying for a drilling lease. Several of the amendments also would have prohibited drilling in certain areas such as the California coastline and the Northeast. An amendment offered by Ed Markey would have required oil companies which accidentally received royalty-free drilling leases in the 1990s to repay those royalties before being able to drill in the newly opened areas. Each of these restrictions was voted down.

The final version passed by a vote of 237 to 187. The vote was mostly along party lines, but 21 Democrats voted 'YES' and 21 Republicans voted 'NO', siding against the majority of their respective parties.

  • Major (multinational) oil & gas producers, Oil & Gas, Independent oil & gas producers, Petroleum refining & marketing, Oilfield service, equipment & exploration, Natural Gas transmission & distribution, Gasoline service stations, and Fuel oil dealers, all of which supported the bill, gave 7.6 times as much on average to House members who voted 'YES' ($44,433) as they gave to House members who voted 'NO' ($5,840).
  • Doug Lamborn, the original sponsor of the PIONEERS Act, received $39,750 in contributions connected to the Oil & Gas industry from July 1, 2009 - June 30, 2011.
  • House Speaker John Boehner, who orginially included the PIONEERS Act in his transportation bill (HR 7), is the number one recipient of contributions from Major (multinational) oil & gas producers in the House, and amongst the top 10 recipients of contributions from the petroleum & natural gas industry to House members. 

METHODOLOGY: MapLight analysis of reported contributions to congressional and presidential campaigns of current House members, from interest groups from the Oil & Gas industries (excluding LPG/Liquid Propane dealers & producers) from July 1, 2009 - June 30, 2011. Campaign contributions data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics (