WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 26 -- As a US Senate committee prepared to mark up its version of a bill to facilitate additions to domestic refining capacity, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois and four other Republican House leaders said oil companies should spend more on new refining capacity.
Noting that the House previously passed its own bill to encourage more refining capacity, Hastert said, "Now the oil companies need to do their part. Increasing capacity and improving refineries will help boost supplies so that consumers do not feel such a big pinch."
The National Petrochemical and Refiners Association responded immediately. "Several companies have publicly announced plans for investment in additional US refining capacity," said the group's chairman, Bill Klesse, who also is Valero Energy Corp.'s chief operating officer. "These projects, together with normal refining 'capacity creep' and the passage of pending legislation to provide incentives for further investment, should make a significant contribution to the nation's future supply of transportation fuels."
Klesse said he hoped Congress and the Bush administration "will continue to take note that the industry is challenged to provide ever-increasing supplies of fuel to consumers while at the same time complying with many contemporaneous requirements for billions of dollars of investments in cleaner fuels and facility improvements."
He said, "NPRA also believes, as recommended in the 2000 and 2004 National Petroleum Council studies, that it would be advisable to pay greater attention to the need to properly sequence and schedule these important environmental initiatives. This would allow the industry time to perform the many tasks before it in what has proved to be a very difficult operating environment."
Hastert and the other House Republican leaders held a press conference on Oct. 25, the day before a rare congressional occurrence—the simultaneous marking up of different budget bills, with nearly equal potential significance to the oil and gas industry, in both the Senate and House.
One week after it held hearings, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee went to work on its own refining bill as part of the budget reconciliation process. At the same time, the House Resources Committee began to mark up a budget measure that included authorization to issue oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and a provision to give coastal states more direct influence in Outer Continental Shelf resource decisions(OGJ Online, Oct. 25, 2005).
"Our oil companies need to do more to inform the American people about what they are doing to bring down the cost of oil and natural gas," said Hastert. "When are new refineries going to be built? When is the Alaska pipeline deal going to be signed?"
Joining him at the press conference were Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton of Texas, Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier of California, Chief Deputy Majority Whip Eric I. Cantor of Virginia, and Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce of Ohio.
"We have domestic resources of oil and natural gas—in ANWR, the Rockies, and other locations," said Hastert. "House Republicans have acted to make these resources available. But we have been blocked every time by the Democrats."
In a separate statement, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said the Republicans' solution to higher oil product prices "is to give oil companies with record high profits more than $8 billion in additional tax breaks and subsidies, leaving American consumers holding the tab."
She said, "We should repeal the excessive tax breaks and subsidies for Republicans' big oil and gas companies cronies and instead direct that money to lower the price of gas at the pump and home heating costs now. A stronger America works for everyone, not just for Republicans' big oil company cronies."
Contact Nick Snow at [email protected].