US Chamber urges Congress, Obama to take positive energy steps

US Chamber of Commerce Pres. Thomas J. Donahue urged Congress and US President Barack Obama to open more offshore areas to oil and gas leasing and development, expand access to onshore federal lands, promote more US natural gas development, and approve the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada as one of six immediate actions to create more US jobs.

“Let American energy workers and businesses responsibly develop all sources of domestic energy immediately,” he recommended in a Sept. 6 letter to Obama and US House and Senate members. “This will not only create jobs but will generate new government revenue, protect our energy security, and release us from the grip of some unfriendly governments.”

Donahue said nearly 190,000 new jobs could be created by 2013 if permitting for offshore development in the Gulf of Mexico returned to levels before US Sec. of the Interior Ken Salazar imposed a moratorium following the Macondo well accident and spill in 2010. Opening oil and gas production off Alaska’s coast could create 54,700 jobs, the US Chamber president said.

Expanding access for oil and gas producers to federal lands could create 530,000 jobs by 2025 while reducing imports by 44% and increasing government revenue by $206 billion, he continued.

“Expanding the development of the nation’s massive shale gas deposits would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and help bring manufacturing back to the United States, especially in the chemicals and steel industries,” Donahue said. “By 2020, gas production in western Pennsylvania alone could create 116,000 new jobs, generate more than $2 billion in government revenue, and add $20 billion to the region’s economy.”

Keystone XL benefits

Approval of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to US refineries would support 250,000 jobs, boost investment in the US by $20 billion, and generate $585 million of government revenues, he added. The US Department of State issued a final environmental impact statement for the proposed pipeline on Aug. 26 and has said that it is on track to determine by the end of 2011 whether the system would be in the national interest and qualify for a cross-border permit.

“The most immediate priority facing our nation is to create jobs for the 25 million Americans who are unemployed, underemployed, or have simply given up looking for work,” Donahue said in his letter.

“To create jobs, we must enact policies that promote and sustain stronger economic growth,” he maintained. “We must also address extraordinary fiscal and competitive challenges that are smothering growth and driving away jobs. At the same time, there are specific steps Congress and the administration can take right now to spur faster job growth in America’s private sector without adding to the deficit.”

Parts of the other recommendations included suggestions that could positively affect oil and gas operations if adopted. Recommendation No. 5, for example, said that environmental reviews should be limited to 6 months, not conducted at all if no significant environmental impact is expected, not duplicate other reviews by states and the federal government, and have a lead agency appointed when multiple entities are involved to coordinate actions and keep the process moving.

“Accelerating the permitting process would quickly mobilize economic activity, construction, and hiring from one end of our country to the other,” Donahue observed in his letter.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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