House Republicans live in imagined energy world, Salazar charges

US Interior Sec. Ken Salazar leveled a broadside against US House Republicans and other critics of the Obama administration’s energy policies who he said are living in a politically driven imagined energy world.

“It’s a place where up is down and left is right, where oil shale seems to be mistaken for shale oil, where record profits justify billions in subsidies, and where rising US production and falling dependence on foreign oil somehow add up to bad news,” he said in an Apr. 24 National Press Club luncheon address.

He urged them to forsake election-year politics and pass bills codifying offshore oil and gas reforms imposed by Interior following the 2010 Macondo well incident and oil spill; approve an agreement with Mexico opening “transboundary” oil reservoirs in the Gulf of Mexico for development; and implement policies to create a long-term, sustained renewable energy economy, including tax incentives and a clean energy standard.

Disputing the perception that Americans are deeply divided over energy policy, Salazar said outside of Washington, people generally agree on what needs to be done: reduce US reliance on foreign oil; expand offshore oil and gas activity, but do it safely and in the right places; broaden the national energy portfolio with more solar, wind, geothermal, and biofuels; and improve motor vehicle fuel economy.

“I think that those who have stood in the way of solutions are going to find the ground shifting under their feet,” Salazar maintained. “The energy world is changing, with or without them. Whether it’s our oil and gas technology, our solar power plants, or our auto manufacturers, the pace of American innovation is staggering. The US is determined to lead in the new energy world.”

Proposals in House

House GOP energy leaders did not immediately respond, but bills before the two key energy committees there reflect some of their thinking.

The Energy and Commerce Committee is scheduled to begin debate on Apr. 25 on a bill that would require opening of more federal acreage for oil and gas activity in response to any release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve; and a bill to establish a committee to analyze potential gasoline, diesel fuel, and natural gas price impacts of proposed US Environmental Protection Agency regulations. The measures would go before the full House as proposed amendments to a pending transportation appropriations bill.

The Natural Resources Committee, meanwhile, has scheduled a hearing for Apr. 26 on seven bills, three of which directly involve oil and gas. HR 4381 would direct the Interior secretary to establish energy production goals on all DOI and US Forest Service lands; HR 4382 would aim to assure that leasing occurs by eliminating redundant bureaucracy; and HR 4383 aims to streamline the federal drilling permit application process.

Salazar suggested that such measures aren’t necessary. “Over the past 3 years, we have worked to restore certainty and reduce conflict,” he said. “Our onshore leasing reforms have helped bring the public into the leasing process earlier, so that fewer leases end up in court. We’ve worked to resolve the controversies on some of the largest oil and gas projects in the West, including for more than 3,500 new wells on Anadarko’s Greater Natural Buttes project in Utah.

“Through an interagency team led by Deputy Sec. David J. Hayes, the US government is—for the first time ever—closely coordinating its energy permitting activities in the Alaska, to good result,” he continued. “And we are working to deploy a new system for processing drilling permits on [US Bureau of Land Management] lands. We expect to reduce permitting times by two-thirds.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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