2004 Scorecard Vote
Anti-environment forces in Congress have sought to blame the decline in the nation's oil refining capacity on unnecessarily strict environmental regulations. In fact, refiners themselves acknowledge that market forces are the primary factor behind the industry's failure to propose new refineries. For example, Valero's senior vice president has stated that it was "the poor margins that had the biggest impact, not the environmental rules." According to the Department of Energy, environmental requirements have accounted for only a very small share of the refining industry's decline in profitability over the years.
Despite these findings, Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) used the refinery shortage as a rationale for introducing H.R. 4517, the Refinery Revitalization Act. The bill would make it easier for oil companies to skirt public health laws when building new refineries or expanding old ones. It would take authority for environmental permitting in so-called "refinery revitalization zones" away from the EPA and hand it to the Energy Department, which has neither expertise nor interest in controlling harmful refinery pollution.
The bill was brought to the House floor without benefit of a public hearing or committee deliberations. On June 16, 2004, the House approved H.R. 4517 by a 239-192 vote (House roll call vote 246). NO is the pro-environment vote. At press time, the bill had yet to be approved by the Senate.