Oil and gas industry lobbyists, anticipating that Republicans could take control of the House in the midterm elections, are already working behind the scenes on Capitol Hill to push back against what they consider the Biden administration’s anti-fossil-fuel agenda.
The American Gas Association is helping to lead the charge, taking aim in particular at a program that encourages homeowners to replace furnaces and stoves that use natural gas with electric-powered devices in the name of fighting climate change.
A top lobbyist at the powerful trade association told other gas industry executives at a conference late last month that the organization was preparing to team up with House Republicans to intensify oversight of the Energy Department, recalling Obama-era investigations by Republicans in Congress into a solar panel company named Solyndra that went bankrupt after receiving a federal loan guarantee.
Their hope is to undercut a $4.5 billion program that will give rebates worth as much as $14,000 per household to low- and moderate-income families to install electric-powered heat pumps, water heaters, induction stoves and other devices that would in many cases replace appliances that use natural gas.
The program is intended to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions from burning natural gas. But the gas industry considers it a major threat that could lead to millions of families dropping natural gas as a home-heating source.
The maneuvering by the lobbyists is an early example of how the influence industry is beginning to develop new strategies for the possibility that one or both chambers in Congress could come under Republican control after the midterms.
With polling suggesting that Republicans have an especially good chance of capturing the House, trade associations, lobbyists and other special interests are honing plans to shape legislation and oversight to their advantage.
“Republicans are expected to retake the House of Representatives, and they are champing at the bit to do some oversight to try to change the law where they can,” Allison Cunningham, the gas association’s top lobbyist, said at a conference in Minneapolis with other gas industry executives last month, according to a recording of the event.
Representative Bill Johnson, Republican of Ohio and a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said in an interview that he had been discussing the issues with the gas industry. He said he was eager to try to elevate them in the new Congress starting in January.
“We are supposed to be looking at energy efficiency, not social re-engineering,” said Mr. Johnson, who represents a part of rural southeastern Ohio that is a major source of natural gas. “This is an attempt by the department to to pursue a rush to green agenda under the guise of efficiency standards.”