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Lawmakers Mull 'OCS II' Legislation

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Rep. John Peterson (R-PA) said they plan to introduce legislation this year that would build on a 2006 bill that opened up an additional 8.3 million acres in the Central Gulf of Mexico to oil and natural gas drilling.

The measure, dubbed "OCS II," would give coastal states the option to allow oil and gas exploration and production off their shorelines, according to Landrieu, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Both Landrieu and Peterson support setting aside a portion of the royalties from expanded offshore development to establish an alternative energy research fund.

Expanded development of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) would be only one part of Landrieu's bill, said spokeswoman Stephanie Allen. The legislation also is expected to call for greater use of alternative fuels and new technology for automobiles, she noted. The proposal is "very much still in the planning stages."

While no time line has been set for when Landrieu will introduce the bill, Allen said the senator believes lawmakers should look at ways to increase domestic energy production "right away."

Peterson, a proponent of increased offshore gas production, also may make expanded OCS drilling the centerpiece of a more comprehensive bill that deals with renewable fuels, ethanol production and incentives for coal-to-liquid technology, said spokesman Chris Tucker.

He noted that Landrieu broached the idea of a possible joint "OCS II" bill Tuesday during a briefing sponsored by U.S. News & World Report and the American Chemistry Council at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

The odds are slim that an "OCS II" measure would clear the Senate Energy Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). While Bingaman supports drilling in the Gulf of Mexico region, he is opposed to removing the restrictions on exploration and production off the East and West Coasts. House Democrats are against expanding offshore drilling as well.

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