Vitter, Bishop prepare bills to expand activity on federal acreage

Two congressional Republicans announced a bicameral effort to stimulate the US economy and improve energy security with new bills aimed at opening up more federal acreage for oil and gas development, streamlining regulatory processes, and limiting legal challenges.

The Energy Production and Project Delivery Act of 2013 would immediately help address the nation’s energy, job, and financial crises by unleashing US energy resources, creating millions of jobs, and generating significant federal revenues from energy production, Sen. David Vitter (La.) and Rep. Rob Bishop (Utah) told reporters on Feb. 27.

S. 17, which Vitter introduced the same day, also would increase federal revenue sharing for offshore oil and gas production without incurring more debt in Washington. The measure has 21 Republican cosponsors and was referred to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“There’s no disputing the fact that our nation’s domestic energy production on federal lands and waters has been stymied by this administration and is trending in the exact opposite direction of the rapid growth we’re seeing on private and state lands,” said Vitter, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s ranking minority member. “This legislation would reverse that trend by increasing access to our domestic resources.”

Bishop, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee’s Public Lands and Environmental Regulation Subcommittee, added, “The US is blessed with diverse and abundant natural energy resources that, if utilized more responsibly, could help our country prosper and grow.” He said, “With the president’s position that only new revenues will alter the course of sequestration, this bill provides an alternative to his proposal for new taxes on hard-working Americans.”

Bills’ key provisions

The two Republicans said their bills would require the US Interior secretary to open the rest of the US Outer Continental Shelf to mineral leasing as well as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s coastal plain; expedite judicial reviews of energy projects on federal land so they are not delayed by extended legal challenges, and prevent the US Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide emissions under the federal Clean Air Act until China, India, and Russia announce similar steps.

Their bills also would prevent consideration of greenhouse gases in federal Endangered Species Act listings, and expedite federal permitting of the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline, they added.

Vitter noted that the most important part of his bill for Louisianans is that it would significantly increase federal offshore oil and gas revenue sharing without incurring additional federal debt. A few US Gulf Coast states received only a $314,000 federal offshore revenue share in 2011, but they and others are scheduled to receive up to $500 million from 2017 to 2055, he said.

He said his bill would increase federal offshore oil and gas revenue sharing along all the entire US Outer Continental Shelf, including another $3 billion/year which would be offset with increased production and expedited leasing. Gulf Coast states would receive a projected $1 billion in 2017-24 and $2 billion in 2025-55, while Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic coastal groups would each receive an estimated $500 million from 2024 to 2055, Vitter indicated.

The US Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Limited Government, Americans for Tax Reform, National Taxpayers Union, and Western Business Roundtable support the bills, the two Republican federal lawmakers said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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