Rahall introduces major federal mineral policy reform bill

US House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-W.Va.) introduced a major federal minerals policy reform bill on Sept. 8.

Sep 10th, 2009

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 10 -- US House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-W.Va.) introduced a major federal minerals policy reform bill on Sept. 8. Its provisions include consolidation of the US Minerals Management Service and Bureau of Land Management.

HR 3534 also would eliminate the royalty-in-kind program and federal reimbursement on interest accrued on overpayments a lessee erroneously makes, raise onshore rental rates for the first time since the 1980s, require new rules to ensure diligent development of leases, and assess a fee on existing leases that are not producing oil and gas, according to the committee majority’s summary of the bill.

The committee will hold hearings on Sept. 16-17 to discuss the measure, Rahall said on Sept. 10. He added that US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and representatives from the US Department of the Interior Inspector General’s Office and the Government Accountability Offices are expected to testify, along with representatives from energy industries, environmental organizations, and other stakeholders.

“Last year, upon lifting the moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), Americans were handed an opportunity to explore the vast potential of our public energy resources in offshore waters,” said Rahall. “This legislation lays the groundwork to ensure those resources are developed as efficiently and expeditiously as possible so that domestic oil and gas can begin flowing from those newly opened areas."

Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), the committee’s ranking minority member, attacked the measure at a Sept. 9 hearing as “a big government bill that throws up more bureaucratic roadblocks on the path to American energy production and job creation. Instead of pushing to open additional areas for drilling, Democrats are raising fees and taxes, ballooning government bureaucracy, rolling out more red tape, and delaying greater wind, solar, oil and natural gas production.”

His remarks came at the opening of the committee’s Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee hearing on HR 2227, an OCS bill which Reps. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Neil Abercrombie (D-Ha.) introduced on May 4. Hastings and Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), the subcommittee’s ranking minority member, said that this measure falls short of the House Republican leadership’s so-called “all of the above” energy bill.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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