“NASHVILLE — When a new energy infrastructure bill was introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly earlier this month, people could be forgiven for paying little attention. Compared to the legislature’s recent follies — an abortion bill that would out-Texas Texas, or a book-banning bill that would override the recommendations of school librarians, or a handgun bill that would let 18-year-olds carry a gun without a permit — an energy-infrastructure bill seems like a big yawn.
Thing is, almost nothing undertaken by the Tennessee General Assembly can be safely overlooked. That boring energy infrastructure bill, which passed the Tennessee Senate last Thursday, would let the state override local laws blocking fossil-fuel projects in their communities. In other words, if this bill becomes law, the state could allow an oil company to run a pipeline through a city over the objections of the city itself.
This may seem like a picayune matter with no relevance outside the state of Tennessee, but it’s exactly the kind of bill that ought to attract national attention — not because it’s happening in Tennessee but because it’s happening, or is poised to happen, in red-state legislatures across the country, according to the Climate Reality Project. Republicans are using rising gas prices as an opportunity to give the fossil-fuel industry whatever it wants in their states, even when their own cities have been trying to protect the environment and their people from that very industry.
Legislative pre-emption is part of a political ground war down here. These routine bills rarely rise to the level of national attention, but their presence explains as much about our national politics — and about what shapes our national elections — as any newly restrictive abortion law or newly lax gun bill does.”