Moderate House Dems Push for North Slope Gas Pipeline

A group of several dozen moderate and conservative Democrats in the House of Representatives last week unveiled a package of energy proposals that, among other things, calls for the immediate construction of a pipeline to bring Alaskan North Slope gas to markets in the United States and the creation of an energy reliability organization to help facilitate the possible role of regional transmission organizations (RTOs) in dealing with regional electricity transmission issues.

The group, collectively known as "Blue Dogs," argued that increasing domestic energy supplies and enhancing the country's energy infrastructure are the critical components of a balanced national energy strategy. To that end, the Blue Dogs said that they support targeted tax incentives for the domestic production of crude oil and natural gas. Also, under their plan, the Blue Dogs would require the president to report to Congress on why domestic oil will not be purchased from marginal wells for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve when prices are below $17/bbl.

The Blue Dogs proposed a series of measures that they said will improve the nation's aging energy infrastructure and facilitate greater efficiencies in energy delivery systems. As for pipelines, the group of Democrats said that construction should begin as soon as possible to bring North Slope gas to the United States. The Blue Dogs asserted that in order to get the pipeline project built on a timely basis, the process for approving the construction of interstate natural gas pipelines needs to be examined closely. The Blue Dogs support a production tax credit to promote the development of a new Trans-Alaskan natural gas pipeline to bring natural gas from Alaska's North Slope to the continental United States.

In the area of pipeline safety, the Blue Dogs proposed strengthening the current oversight program for pipelines by requiring the Department of Transportation (DOT) to develop separate pipeline integrity rules for hazardous liquid and natural gas transmission pipelines. The DOT would also be directed to require that pipeline operators have integrity management plans in place 18 months after completion of the relevant final rule.

Turning to electricity issues, the Blue Dogs note that restructured electricity markets have recently come under stress as increased demand creates supply bottlenecks. Transmission constraints and the split responsibilities between states and the federal government have caused inefficiencies and new mechanisms should be considered to address regional issues, they said. The Blue Dogs proposed the creation of an energy reliability organization that would help facilitate the role of RTOs in addressing regional transmission needs and circumstances. They also proposed making available up to $30 million per year through rural construction grants for communities to upgrade electric transmission and distribution lines.

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