Republican senators prepping bills to expand drilling, limit regulations
Written byNICK JULIANO, E&E Daily
Senate Republicans this week plan to introduce a sweeping energy bill that is expected to largely mirror a recently passed House package in calling for expanded drilling in federal lands and waters and delay of U.S. EPA oil refinery regulations -- with a dash of Keystone XL approval thrown into the mix.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) separately is planning a narrower bill, to be introduced today, aimed at expanding offshore drilling and revenue sharing.
The broader effort is being spearheaded by Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), who also is serving as the Senate's lead participant in efforts to craft the formal Republican Party platform, which is expected to feature a heavy focus on energy policy (E&E Daily, July 23). Lead co-sponsors of the bill, which will be introduced tomorrow, will include Sens. John Barrasso (D-Wyo.) and Murkowski, the ranking member of the energy committee.
"It's a number of things that have come already through the House -- American energy and the jobs that are related to that energy," Barrasso told reporters yesterday.
Murkowski's bill would expand offshore leasing and provide revenue sharing to coastal states, her spokesman Robert Dillon said. The bill would provide for lease sales off Virginia and the eastern Gulf of Mexico, allow directional drilling from existing rigs off Southern California and offer annual lease sales in the Arctic; the northeast Atlantic Coast and North Aleutian Basin would be excluded.
The Hoeven bill is expected to largely mirror a package of several bills that House leaders dubbed the "Domestic Energy and Jobs Act," which passed the lower chamber last month (E&ENews PM, June 21). The measure would delay EPA rules pending a study on gas prices, streamline permitting and establish minimum thresholds for annual lease sales on public lands and offshore.
Hoeven, a key backer of the Keystone XL pipeline, also is expected to include language in his bill mandating approval of the Alberta-to-Texas crude conduit. That language was not included in the House legislation, which passed as lawmakers continued to negotiate over inclusion of a Keystone provision that ultimately was stripped from the transportation reauthorization bill.
House language from Rep. Cory Gardner (D-Colo.) requiring new lands to be open to oil drilling if the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is tapped is not expected to make it into the package Hoeven plans to unveil this week, but much of the remaining House package is expected to survive.
Those provisions are expected to include a requirement that the Interior Department establish a plan to meet U.S. energy needs through oil, natural gas, coal and renewable energy produced on public lands; provisions to allow oil leasing in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and oil lease sales offshore from Virginia; and limits on environmental reviews for some offshore wind development activities.
The legislation is also expected to block the Interior Department from moving forward with potential plans to fold Bureau of Land Management functions into the Office of Surface Mining. Earlier this year, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar backed off from a broader merger of BLM and OSM. But he also called on leaders to study whether OSM should oversee BLM's policing of non-coal mining activities.
The bill will "dovetail with some of the things the House has been doing," Hoeven said in an interview Monday. "And it goes to reducing the regulatory burden. It goes to more access both onshore and offshore. It goes to developing all of the resources -- truly doing all of the above, rather than setting up roadblocks, which the administration has done."