Revised Senate 'Gang of 20' proposal won't be debated immediately

A group of 20 US senators has developed a new version of its energy legislation proposals, but its leaders said that they don't expect it to be considered before Congress recesses on Sept. 26 because of the current deepening fiscal crisis.

Sep 26th, 2008

A group of 20 US senators has developed a new version of its energy legislation proposals, but its leaders said that they don't expect it to be considered before Congress recesses on Sept. 26 because of the current deepening fiscal crisis.

"Unfortunately, time to debate comprehensive energy policy is not available. Instead, we will share our plan with our colleagues and ask that the New Era bill be among the first order of business when Congress reconvenes," Sens. Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said in a joint statement on Sept. 19. The so-called "Gang of 20" is made up of 10 Democratic and 10 Republican senators.

The new version of what is formally known as the New Energy Reform Act of 2008 would expand oil and gas leasing on the US Outer Continental Shelf, offer consumers tax credits for buying advanced fuel vehicles, and increase nuclear power generation, Conrad and Chambliss said. The new version also would be paid for with no net tax or spending increase, they added.

"The reason our group formed and the reason we remain together is because we all want to see a serious, comprehensive energy policy that can be enacted into law. We are extremely proud of this Gang of 20 and remain committed to working together to lessen our nation's dependence on foreign oil and strengthen America's economy," Conrad and Chambliss said.

"We tried to move the parties closer together and made a significant impact in that regard, but it hasn't been close enough. Some holdouts simply remain more focused on the politics of the next 45 days than on smart solutions for the next 45 years," said Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), one of the 10 original members who helped develop the original proposal which was announced on Aug. 1.

"Whatever the date on the calendar, however, we must not give up our fight for a smarter strategy that lowers [gasoline] prices and steers us away from the perilous and wholly unnecessary dependence on foreign oil," she continued.

The US House of Representatives on Sept. 16 approved what Democratic leaders there said was a comprehensive energy package which included expanded oil and gas leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf. But the House refused to consider another bill by a bipartisan working group led by John E. Peterson (R-Pa.) and Neil Abercrombie (D-Ha.) which had 137 cosponsors. Some members in that group plan to informally discuss their ideas with the Senate's Gang of 20, a source told OGJ Washington Pulse.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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