Sweeping energy package reaches House floor

02-02-2012 // Phil Taylor - E&E News

This excerpt is from E&E News (subscription required)

House Republicans yesterday advanced a trio of energy bills that would allow a vast expansion of oil and gas development in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and in the oil-rich Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The bills, which passed the Natural Resources Committee on mostly party-line votes, now move to the House floor where they are expected to join Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) "American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act."

Republicans said the bills will create more than a million American jobs, lower energy prices and raise new revenues to replenish the Highway Trust Fund. Democrats panned the package as an opportunistic giveaway to the oil and gas industry, arguing it would raise far less revenue than what is needed to build roads.

"This Republican jobs plan opens access to American energy resources, creates new jobs, brings certainty for small businesses that depend on affordable energy and generates new revenue that can be used to build roads and infrastructure projects to create even more American jobs," said committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.). "Unlocking our nation's energy resources starts a wave of economic benefits and job creation that will positively touch nearly every aspect of our economy."

On a 25-19 vote, the committee reported H.R. 3410, which would require the Interior Department to hold lease sales in the most oil-rich parts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as a small portion of the eastern Gulf. Republicans added language yesterday that would include a lease in Alaska's Bristol Bay and along California's Santa Barbara coast, as long as drilling only occurs from existing platforms or from the shore.

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The committee defeated an amendment by Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the Water and Power subcommittee, that would have required the U.S. Geological Survey to study of impacts of oil shale on water quality and quantity for municipal and agricultural users.

Tipton said the Government Accountability Office is in the process of addressing her concerns.

"We have mitigation required in the state of Colorado," he said. "In terms of water supply, under Colorado law, in order to use water you have to own water."

But environmentalists urged a cautious approach to oil shale development, arguing potential environmental and economic impacts are yet to be explored. Many fear developing the resource could lead to another boom-and-bust cycle that could cripple local communities.

"Lamborn's approach to oil shale is 'Ready or not here it comes,' and we are not ready," said Kate Zimmerman, of the National Wildlife Federation. "There are still very important questions to be answered about the impacts of extracting oil shale on Colorado communities, on water quantity and quality and on fish and wildlife."

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