Hastings will ask 'super committee' to consider ANWR leasing

Saying that it’s as important to increase federal revenue as to cut government spending, US House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said he intends to ask the congressional deficit reduction “super committee” to consider oil and gas leasing on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s coastal plain.

“It would be an immediate first step that would generate $150 billion of royalty revenue for the federal government over its lifetime,” he told a Sept. 7 energy jobs summit sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute and The Hill newspaper. “It would put tens of thousands of people to work, and the taxes on their incomes would help federal, state, and local governments. And it’s easily accessible, because it’s close to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System and can be transported to markets in the Lower 48 states.”

Hastings said that both houses of Congress passed bipartisan legislation authorizing ANWR leasing in 1995, but it was vetoed by then-President Bill Clinton. “ANWR leasing opponents often say it would take at least 10 years to begin producing oil there,” the federal lawmaker said. “That means that in 2011, we would have had oil from there—and all the royalty and tax revenue associated with it—for 6 years now if President Clinton hadn’t vetoed that bill.”

Speaking with reporters following his address, Hastings said he had not had time to speak with other Natural Resources Committee members let alone House Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) about bringing ANWR leasing authorization before the deficit reduction super committee. Congress established the 12-member body as part of its agreement to raise the national debt limit in early August. “This is going to be a work in progress, but I believe members from our side would be amenable,” he said.

Told that US Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and other Democrats on the super committee have previously opposed authorizing ANWR leasing, Hastings responded: “Maybe with the price of oil where it is, and national security such an issue, some of them will have an epiphany.”

In his remarks, Hastings said that he would ask the Natural Resources Committee to recommend expanding domestic offshore and onshore energy production beyond ANWR, and to hold hearings about sharing new federal offshore energy revenue with directly adjacent coastal states. “Energy must be a part of the conversation as this joint committee meets,” he declared. “I think that jobs and excessive government spending are the two biggest issues we face. I think the next election will be about the economy, and energy has always been a big part of that economy.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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