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House NatGas Caucus Supports States Rights for Natural Gas

The four co-chairs of the House of Representatives' Natural Gas Caucus Wednesday had one message for the Obama administration: stay out of state regulators' oil and natural gas activities.

"Keep the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] out and allow the states to do their jobs," Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson (R-PA) told reporters, industry executives and regulators during the Natural Gas Roundtable meeting on Capitol Hill.

"I think one of the most important things we can do in Washington is keep government out of the way," said Thompson, whose district is within the Marcellus Shale.

The states will win out over the Obama administration when it comes to the debate over whether there should be "one-size-fits-all" regulation of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), said Rep. Jim Costa (D-Costa (D-CA). "If you were asking me to handicap it...I think there probably is not going to be a piece of legislative that will create a criteria for a [federal] regulatory regime in the near future, and what the administration ends up doing as it relates to using the power of the executive branch on a regulatory regime is limited, I believe."

California is sitting on a potential $30 billion-plus gold mine in its Monterrey Shale, according to Costa. The state's legislators last week passed a framework to set standards for fracking that are expected to be signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown soon, with implementation to begin on Jan. 1 (see Shale DailySept. 13).

Although House lawmakers don't have the privilege of voting on the nomination of Ron Binz to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) said he had some concerns about his appointment. "I know there is opposition to him because of [his opposition to] coal." He also questioned whether FERC could continue to do a "fairly good job" in approving gas pipelines and gas export facilities under Binz.

The Binz nomination could be in trouble in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the ranking member of the committee, said Tuesday she planned to vote against Binz (see Daily GPISept. 18). If the other Republicans on the panel follow suit, and just one of the 12 Democrats who sit on the committee crosses over to vote with the 10 Republicans, the nomination would be defeated. "A tie vote [at the committee level, 11-11] is the same as a no vote," said a committee spokesman.

 The pivotal votes for Binz will come from lawmakers representing two fossil fuel-producing states: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA).

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