Balderson, Pfluger and Obernolte Discuss Their Priorities as New Members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee

WASHINGTON, DC – In remarks yesterday morning before a breakfast meeting of The Ripon Society, three new members of the U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee discussed the agenda of the influential panel and some of the key priorities they plan to work toward in the coming year.

The members were: Troy Balderson, who represents the 12th District of Ohio in the House of Representatives and was elected to Congress in 2018; August Pfluger, who represents the 11th District of Texas in the House and was elected to Congress in 2021; and, Jay Obernolte, who represents the 23rd District of California and was also elected in 2021.

“I have a few different things that I am really looking forward to working on,” stated Obernolte.  “First of all, the issue of digital data privacy is a very important one. I was the Republican lead in the California legislature when the California Consumer Privacy Act was passed, which is pretty much the furthest reaching piece of legislation that has taken effect in the United States so far on the issue of privacy.  I am absolutely convinced that we need to preempt this at the federal level.”

Referring to the “patchwork quilt” of different regulations that would exist if every state were to pass their own version of privacy legislation, he continued: “That’s destructive to entrepreneurialism, because two guys in a garage in Silicon Valley are people who don’t have the legal sophistication to deal with 50 different state regulations when they’re trying to focus their energies on starting a business.”

Obernolte, who started his own video game development studio prior to entering public life, also pointed to artificial intelligence as a priority and an issue that Congress needs to get up to speed on – quickly.

“I think I’m the only member of Congress with a graduate degree in AI,” he noted.  “And I’m the Vice Chair of the AI Caucus. We’re spending a lot of time trying to educate everyone on what the actual dangers of AI are and the beneficial uses of AI.  I think when we create a regulatory framework around AI, we have to be very careful because we need to create that framework with the frame of mind of what we’re trying to prevent.

“What are we trying to guard against? What are we trying to protect consumers against? If we don’t do that, we risk stifling the growth of an industry that could be an incredible catalyst for the growth of human prosperity and American dominance. I want to make sure that doesn’t happen and that we get that regulatory piece right.”

The California lawmaker also serves as co-chair of the Fusion Energy Caucus, and pointed to fusion energy as another priority he plans to focus on in 2023.

“This is another case where we are going to be creating regulatory framework,” he observed. “We need to make sure we get it right, because this is something that could really change the world.  And with the events of just the last 12 months, it seems clear that this is going to be something that happens, and not merely be theoretical.  It’s going to happen soon — within our lifetime.  And I think we, as a government, need to be prepared.”

Pfluger agreed, and opened his remarks by discussing an effort he is leading to strengthen energy security in the United States.

“I’ve got legislation to really get after the permitting process and start looking at why we are taxing Americans and consumers with unnecessary burdens when it really does not have any impact,” he stated. “I’m specifically talking about the L&G tax on methane. When you look at producers and you come to Midland, Texas, you understand that these producers have been doing the things that the EPA many years ago set out to do.  We’ve already been taking those innovative approaches as a private industry. We don’t need a tax to tell us how to do it better.”

The Texas Republican also highlighted the importance of permitting reform – a priority he said he has heard about from the people he represents back home.

“I’ve talked to seven or eight CEOs of major independent companies,” he recounted. “These CEOs are saying, ‘We would love to take the profits and reinvest them and recapitalize and do more, but we can’t because we’re not sure we can get a permit … We should be doing things smarter. We should be doing things that allow us to remain dominant instead of outsourcing those jobs to other countries around the world.”

“We should be doing things that allow us to remain dominant instead of outsourcing jobs to other countries.”

Balderson concurred.

“I was Chair of the Energy and Utilities Committee in the state legislature for 10 years,” he said. “I’m going to take some of the things that we did in Ohio — to make permitting easier, to make it easier for folks to do it the right way but give them the opportunity to expand.”

The Buckeye State lawmaker also pointed to the importance of strengthening telehealth as America emerges from its fight against COVID-19.

“Through the pandemic,” he noted, “I got very involved in it — doing Zoom with families who were utilizing telehealth, and seeing the difference it made in their lives … We’re going to be continuing telehealth and expanding it … We have a bill that we brought out last Congress to keep telehealth. That’ll be a hyper focus for us. I’m pretty fortunate I represent Central Ohio, so we have some of the largest and most fantastic hospitals and rural hospitals and fairly qualified health centers in the state of Ohio.”

Balderson, who served on both the Committee on Agriculture and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in the 117th Congress, concluded his remarks by reiterating how pleased he was to be on the Energy & Commerce Committee.

“This is something that we worked very hard for,” he stated.  “I feel very blessed and fortunate to be on this committee.”

To view the remarks of Balderson, Pfluger, and Obernolte at yesterday’s breakfast discussion, please click the link below:

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.