Bush orders agencies to review how rules impact energy output

President George W. Bush Friday took the first steps toward redefining the nation's energy policy. He issued executive orders calling on all federal agencies to consider energy policy when implementing major rules. A related order seeks to streamline permits on an interagency basis for any energy-related project.


By the OGJ Online Staff

WASHINGTON, DC, May 18 -- President George W. Bush Friday took the first steps toward redefining the nation's energy policy when he signed two executive orders recommended by a sweeping task force report.

The executive orders call on all federal agencies to consider energy policy when implementing major rules; a related order seeks to streamline permits on an interagency basis for any energy-related project (OGJ Online, May 17, 2001).

"These two orders are the next steps toward a brighter energy future," Bush told reporters Friday following a speech at a Pennsylvania hydroelectric plant on the Susquehanna River. Bush unveiled the task force report at a multi-fuel cogeneration facility in St. Paul, Minn.

Industry generally praised the document, authored by Vice-Pres. Dick Cheney, which the White House has characterized as a "blueprint" from which Congress can craft comprehensive energy legislation.

"We are pleased that the president will require all federal agencies to consider the energy impact of new regulations, as well as instituting a streamlining process for issuing permits for energy-related projects," said Jerry Jordan, chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America. "Realistically, natural gas will continue to be a major component in the energy mix. Ensuring natural gas supplies in the face of growing demand is vital to our national interest.

"Unlike oil, natural gas supply is dependent on North American resources, with 80 to 85% coming from the US. Much of the most accessible natural gas lies under lands controlled by the government. Current restrictions affecting access to these lands differ depending on the region. We are pleased that impediments to access will be examined to encourage natural gas exploration and production."

Meanwhile, environmental groups have dismissed the task force report, saying it over-emphasizes fossil fuel supply at the expense of more conservation and renewable alternatives.

About 75% of the task force recommendations could be carried out by the administration although most of the initiatives rely on the judgment of Bush's cabinet members from the departments of Interior, Energy, and Commerce. Another 20 proposals require congressional action. Republican leaders pledged to move forward this summer with a series of bills to address short-term worries over gasoline prices and blackouts and long-term concerns such as strained refinery capacity, and an aging gas and electric delivery system.

Compromises clearly will have to be made to satisfy environmental groups and their supporters in Congress. Most Democrats do not support the task force recommendation to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. There appears to be support for expanding tax incentives for marginal well production, one element not in the Bush plan although quietly endorsed by the administration.

But policymakers do not have time for a protracted debate, Bush cautioned in remarks Thursday when he unveiled his plan.

"The future is achievable, if we make the right choices now. But if we fail to act, this great country could face a darker future, a future that is, unfortunately, being previewed in rising prices at the gas pump and rolling blackouts in the great state of California."

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