Six more senators turn the 'Gang of 10' into a 'Gang of 16'

Six more US senators expressed support for a bipartisan energy proposal which includes opening more of the Outer Continental Shelf for leasing, several members of the so-called "Gang of 10" announced on Aug. 26.

Six more US senators expressed support for a bipartisan energy proposal which includes opening more of the Outer Continental Shelf for leasing, several members of the so-called "Gang of 10" announced on Aug. 26.

Sens. Thomas J. Carper (D-Del.), Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), John E. Sununu (R-NH) and John W. Warner (R-Va.) have joined the group, according to its two leaders, Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.).

"This is good news. We all feel a sense of urgency to help ease fuel prices in the short term while addressing our long-term needs. This comprehensive, bipartisan framework is now backed by a Gang of 16 because it puts every option on the table," Conrad said.

The original group of 10 senators announced their proposal on Aug. 1 as Congress headed for its late summer recess. A 48-member US House bipartisan working group unveiled its plan at the same time. Both were designed as proposed compromises in contrast to months of legislative gridlock and strident statements by congressional Democratic and Republican leaders.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) immediately said he welcomed the Gang of 10's proposal although he disagreed with some of its provisions. He also agreed to the group's request for a day-long energy forum and asked Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) to direct it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has not responded to either the working group's proposal, which now has 70 cosponsors, or one by six other House members. Both call for leasing more of the OCS. Meanwhile, several House Republicans have stayed in Washington for nearly three weeks and made speeches from a shut-down House floor criticizing Pelosi for not bringing the OCS question to a vote before the recess began.

'The No. 1 issue'

"During the August recess, I have been from one end of Georgia to the other, and the No. 1 issue I hear about continues to be the high cost of fuel. We have a real opportunity to get something done by working together. I am so pleased that our bipartisan group has added more senators, and I feel confident we will continue to see it grow once we resume the session after Labor Day," Chambliss said.

"The American people are looking for action on the energy crisis. They are not looking for a political issue. They simply want to be able to make ends meet without having to make difficult budget decisions," he maintained.

"The Gang of 10's energy proposal has emerged as the most common-sense, bipartisan proposal of all the energy plans responding to $4/gal gasoline prices. Six additional senators are now putting their weight behind a proposal to wisely expand domestic drilling to lower prices at the pump. Our legislation also makes a serious investment in alternative fuels to move the US away from gasoline as a principal fuel," said Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), another of the group's original members.

"The balanced approach of the 'Gang of 16's' plan is drawing significant support, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in September to expand our consensus of senators from 16 to 60 in the coming weeks," she added.

"Support for a balanced, bipartisan approach to increase our country's energy security is growing, and I believe this momentum clearly shows the way forward on energy is a meaningful approach that enables our country to produce more energy here at home and use less as we move forward to alternative energy sources," added Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tn.), who also was part of the original Gang of 10.

Two oil industry groups, the American Petroleum Institute and the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, have criticized the proposal for not opening more of the OCS while imposing billions of dollars in new taxes.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

More in LPG Markets