House Democrats won't try to restore OCS moratoriums, majority leader says

US House Democratic leaders will not try to reimpose offshore oil and gas leasing moratoriums which expired at the end of September, Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Nov. 18.

US House Democratic leaders will not try to reimpose offshore oil and gas leasing moratoriums which expired at the end of September, Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Nov. 18.

There probably will be attempts to delineate where leasing will take place, he told an audience at the National Press Club. "I do not believe at this point that there are any proposals being made to reinstate the moratoriums across the board," Hoyer said.

His remarks came a day after US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) said that the United States needs an intelligent policy to promote more domestic oil and gas production, both onshore and offshore.

"That production has to be undertaken in an environmentally responsible way, and with recognition that multiple users and stakeholders are involved," Bingaman said in remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Nov. 17.

He suggested that congressional moratoriums on Outer Continental Shelf leasing began in the early 1980s as a reaction to what he described as "a large and ill-conceived offshore leasing effort" by James G. Watt, Ronald Reagan's first Interior secretary. "I hope that we are smarter and more strategic this time in how we go about dealing with offshore oil and gas resources," Bingaman said.

He said that the next step might be "a serious and expeditious inventory" of OCS energy resources. Congress called for an OCS inventory in the 2005 Energy Policy Act but never provided funding to carry it out, he noted.

'Stable political consensus'

"Major energy development projects require a steady strategy and steady investments over the long term, so they need to be based on a stable political consensus that isn't reversed every few years. That means that our energy decision-making on the [OCS], as well as onshore, needs to be based on the best data we can collect on both the energy and environmental characteristics of potential areas for production. Getting that data on a priority basis will greatly increase the chances that we will make energy supply choices that will be sustainable economically, environmentally and politically," Bingaman said.

Responding to Hoyer's comment, the American Petroleum Institute said that it is the right approach. "Neither Congress nor the next administration should set unreasonable, arbitrary limits on leasing because such restrictions could remove some of the nation's most promising oil and gas prospects for development, and the industry has proven it can develop these resources in an environmentally safe manner," it said in a Nov. 18 statement.

In his prepared remarks, Hoyer said that the first focus of the next Congress will be to restore US economic health by rebuilding worn-out infrastructure, helping hard-pressed states and demonstrating fiscal responsibility.

"On energy, for instance, a fiscally responsible strategy must invest in new technologies to bring the price of energy down in the long term, because there is nothing more short-sighted than acting as if our foreign oil addiction is a problem only when [gasoline] costs more than $3/gal. Ending that addiction would halt what T. Boone Pickens right calls the greatest transfer of wealth in human history: from America to the petro-states of the Middle East," the House majority leader said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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