Republicans push energy bill but admit ANWR is uphill battle

Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, backed by the Bush administration, Wednesday began a renewed but uphill campaign to pass legislation opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain for exploration. The House Resources Committee began a hearing on energy policy reform legislation.


Maureen Lorenzetti
OGJ Online

WASHINGTON, DC, July 11 -- Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, backed by the Bush administration, Wednesday began a renewed but uphill campaign to pass legislation opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain for exploration.

The Republicans spoke at a press conference before the House Resources Committee began a hearing on energy policy reform legislation. Rep. James Hansen (R-Utah), committee chairman, was filing a comprehensive energy bill Wednesday that includes ANWR leasing.

The coastal plain, east of Prudhoe Bay field in northeastern Alaska, is considered the most promising area for oil exploration in the US. Congress must approve leasing. Environmentalists, who say any oil activity would be destructive, have been successful in blocking a bill in recent years.

Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, admitted it would be an uphill battle to pass ANWR legislation. "It will be tough. But we would be remiss if we didn't bring the issue forward," he said.

Interior Sec. Gale Norton said ANWR leasing has the full support from the White House. She said the North Slope environmental safeguards in Hansen's bill are "the most stringent yet."

Tauzin argued that allowing exploration of ANWR is better energy policy than using the US military to keep Middle East oil supply routes safe.

Among other provisions of interest to producers, Hansen's bill would offer incentives for subsalt exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. It also has chapters to offer relief for deepwater exploration and to promote the government's taking of its oil royalties in-kind.

Tauzin said it is difficult for Congress to pass energy legislation "because we have to balance so many emotional things. There are incredible balances that we must consider."

He said his committee would consider a measure legislation to improve fuel efficiency standards for new autos, but compromises still are being considered. He also predicted that the House would pass legislation streamlining reformulated gasoline regulations to reduce the different types of fuels that refiners must produce for various regions.

Tauzin said several House committees would mark up energy bills in their areas of jurisdiction this summer, and those would be compiled into a single measure for consideration on the House floor. He expressed hope that vote would occur before Congress begins its August recess.

Contact Maureen Lorenzetti at maureenl@ogjonline.com

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