US Sen Landrieu, Rep Peterson Continue Drilling Push

US Sen Landrieu, Rep Peterson Continue Drilling Push

The new Democratic-led U.S. Congress is promoting energy policies that focus more on renewable energy than oil and natural gas drilling, but some officials are still determined to open more federal lands to energy exploration.

Speaking at an energy policy forum Tuesday, pro-drilling lawmakers Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa., said they want to advance legislation that would give energy firms access to new areas of the Outer Continental Shelf, also known as OCS, or the federally-administered lands offshore.

The two lawmakers last year played critical roles in successfully advancing a bill that opened about eight million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling.

Now, in the new 110th Congress, the pair is hoping to pick up where that bill left off and open areas off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts to development.

“We hope to be successful in what we’re calling an ‘OCS Two’ bill, which would be the next area of the OCS,” Landrieu said. “Not exploring the OCS and not drilling in the OCS would be like landing on Plymouth Rock and not moving. We need an OCS Two for natural gas.”

Landrieu said she envisions a bill that would open new coasts to energy exploration while creating a coastal education effort to teach regions about the impacts and values of drilling.

“Drilling does not come without risks but the risks can certainly be minimized,” said Landrieu, who also said she’d like to see Congress pass legislation that would address climate change and boost alternative vehicles like hybrid cars.

Landrieu also said she’d like to see the revenues generated from new energy production on federal lands to go towards new, non-fossil fuel based energy technologies.

Peterson agreed that an “OCS Two” drilling bill could be coupled with provisions that would allow the revenues generated from royalty payments to go towards renewable energy and alternative fuels programs.

A Gas-Only Bill Might Be Easier To Get Done

He also suggested that it might be easier to push a gas-only bill that would open new areas to natural gas drilling, but stop short of allowing oil production.

Many lawmakers skeptical of drilling have greater concerns about oil and might be more willing to back a gas-only drilling bill, he said.

“If we could open it up for natural gas only we’d now have the bridge” to open it up for oil too, Peterson added.

Still, Democratic leaders and public interest groups have argued that Democrats’ congressional election victory last fall signaled an energy policy shift that effectively kills controversial, Republican-led efforts to drill offshore and in Alaska.

In fact, Democratic leaders have already put the oil industry on the defensive, having recently passed a bill in the House that repealed billions of dollars worth of oil and gas industry subsidies in order to fund renewable energy programs.

At the same time, they’ve vowed to make fighting global warming and boosting energy efficiency programs their top priorities.

Staunch drilling proponents, however, argue that increasing supplies of natural gas, which emits substantially less carbon dioxide than coal, is part of the answer to climate change.

And they say opening more areas to drilling can help increase use of alternative energy by generating revenues that could fund new programs.

“Congress cannot achieve its energy and climate goals without addressing the U.S. gas supply,” said Jack Gerard, president of the American Chemistry Council, which has strongly backed legislation that would put new gas supply on the market. Chemical companies are often dependent on natural gas as a feedstock and have complained about the rising cost of the fossil fuel.

Gerard and natural gas groups argue that a mandatory program limiting emissions of global warming-causing pollutant carbon dioxide would prompt greater use of natural gas to produce electricity. Those greater demands can’t be met without giving companies greater access to new lands for drilling, they say.


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