Bush energy plan focuses on executive actions, local involvement

US President George W. Bush Thursday disclosed his energy policy program, much of which follows his campaign promise to expand local authority to many oil and gas developments. The report offers 105 recommendations on a wide range of energy issues from wellhead to burner tip. Of those initiatives, 73 are directives to federal agencies.


By Maureen Lorenzetti
OGJ Online

WASHINGTON, DC, May 17 -- US President George W. Bush Thursday disclosed his energy policy program, much of which follows his campaign promise to expand local authority to many oil and gas developments.

Bush disclosed his long-awaited energy task force report Thursday in St. Paul, Minn. Vice-Pres. Dick Cheney had directed the energy policy effort.

The report offers 105 recommendations on a wide range of energy issues from wellhead to burner tip. Of those initiatives, 73 are directives to federal agencies.

An executive order signed Thursday called on all federal agencies to consider energy policy when implementing major rules; a related order seeks to streamline permitting for energy-related projects.

The focus now shifts to Capitol Hill, where Republican lawmakers hope to implement most if not all of the legislative recommendations in the report by this fall.

Some Democrats say that timetable is too ambitious, since there are many contentious issues on the table -- including proposals to open the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to development, and a plan to give utilities more flexibility to meet clean air regulations through a cap-and-trade program.

GOP leaders said the plan is balanced and seeks to boost domestic production through streamlined permitting and greater access to federal lands. It also encourages conservation with $6.3 billion in tax incentives over 10 years, aimed at encouraging consumers to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles and renewable energy technology.

For oil and gas producers, the report does not advocate tax incentives to keep marginal wells in production at times of low prices. However, other pending bills in Congress propose marginal well tax incentives.

Highlights
Main points of the report are:

The Departments of Energy and Interior will promote enhanced oil and gas recovery from existing wells through new technology.

Interior will examine land status and lease stipulation impediments to federal oil and gas leasing, and review and modify those where opportunities exist (consistent with existing law).

Interior will expedite an ongoing study of impediments to federal oil and gas exploration and development.

Interior will review public land withdrawals and lease stipulations.

Interior and Commerce will re-examine current federal laws covering the coastal zone and the Outer Continental Shelf.

Interior will proceed with an offshore leasing plan that includes a sale in the eastern Gulf of Mexico (Lease Sale 181).

Interior will expand leasing in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

The Environmental Protection Agency, in consultation with DOE and the Attorney General, will review existing enforcement actions regarding New Source Review to ensure that the enforcement actions are consistent with the Clean Air Act.

EPA and DOE will ensure America has adequate refining capacity to meet needs of consumers; streamline permitting when possible; and re-examine reformulated gasoline rules to see if they can be retooled to increase flexibility for the nation's strained fuel delivery system.

The State, Treasury, and Commerce Departments will review economic sanctions against other nations with an eye toward US energy security.

DOE, State, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will propose reforms to cross-boundary permitting with Canada and Mexico for gas and electric transmission.

DOE will work with the International Energy Agency to improve global oil data.

All federal agencies will support continued research on climate change and explore market-base incentives.

Another 20 of the recommendations would require congressional action. They include expediting construction of an Alaskan gas pipeline to the Lower 48 states; opening the ANWR coastal plain to drilling; earmarking bonus bids from ANWR leasing for renewable fuel technology and national parks; and supporting the current fuel ethanol tax exemption.

Contact Maureen Lorenzetti at maureenl@ogjonline.com.

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