The U.S. House of Representatives approved one bill and
rejected another on Wednesday, May 3. Both bills were aimed at dealing with
rising fuel prices.
Rod Nofziger, director of government affairs for OOIDA, said
House Republicans attempted to pass both bills under “suspension of rules,” a
provision used to expedite less controversial bills.
The bill that was approved, HR 5253, is known as the Federal
Energy Price Protection Act of 2006 and would impose strict penalties for price
gouging. If approved as is by the Senate and signed by the president, the bill
would be the first law at the federal level to deal with price gouging.
The House version of the price-gouging bill directs the
Federal Trade Commission to create an official rule defining what constitutes
price gouging, and then orders the FTC to begin enforcement of that rule.
In addition, the bill would give state attorneys the
authority to file civil actions against possible price gougers. The bill would
establish civil penalties for price gouging as high as $3 million for each day
of an ongoing violation. Criminal punishment could be as high as $150 million
in fines and two years in prison.
The second bill, HR5254, the Refinery Permit Process
Schedule Act, failed to gain approval in the House. Under the suspension of
rules provision, a bill requires a two-thirds majority vote to be approved.
While the bill did receive a majority, it did not receive two-thirds and
therefore was not approved.
The refinery bill is designed to help speed up the permit
process to encourage the construction of new refineries. The bill called for
the creation of a federal coordinator to oversee the coordination and approval
of refinery authorizations.
The refinery bill could still get another chance. Congressional
Quarterly reported that House Republicans are planning to return it to the
floor under normal rules, most likely next week, when it is expected to be
approved by a simple majority vote.
– By Terry Scruton, senior writer