Rep. Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, unveiled the Energy Policy Reform and Revitalization Act of 2007, which, among other things, would amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) and require the Minerals Management Service (MMS) to perform at least 550 audits of oil and natural gas leases every fiscal year beginning in 2009.

The amended EPAct would require energy companies operating on federal land to develop oil and natural gas resources "in a more responsible way, avoiding conflict with landowners, communities and wildlife." Besides conducting a specific number of audits, MMS auditors also would have to meet "professional auditor qualifications" consistent with recently enacted Government Auditing Standards published by the Government Accountability Office.

"As a result of hearings held under the auspices of the committee we have established a record that clearly points to a mandate for change in the way the federal government manages its energy resources," Rahall said. "The introduction of this legislation signals that we are committed to adopting energy policies that truly reflect the needs of the American people and provide for our environmental, economic, and national security -- not jeopardize it."

Rahall said HR 2337 takes a "wholesale approach to moving America toward a future of energy independence, by providing opportunities for more efficient and responsible energy production that meets the challenges of the 21st century. The committee recently conducted a series of hearings to examine our nation's current energy policies -- and found that it is possible to address our growing energy needs, as well as climate change threats, in a more innovative and sustainable way."

Under the bill, Subsection (c) of Section 35 of the Mineral Leasing Act (30 USC 191) would be repealed. Also struck out of EPAct would be a prohibition on fee increases found in Subsection (i) of Section 365. Instead, the Department of Interior would promulgate rules to impose fees to recover costs incurred to process permits to conduct energy production-related activities on federal lands.

EPAct's rules governing energy rights-of-way corridors on federal land also would be amended. Rahall wants a study conducted within 18 months of the bill's passage by the secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy and Interior on:

In performing the study, the department officials would not be able to consider for designation corridors that are:

The study also would "identify opportunities to mitigate to the maximum extent practicable" the potential impact of designating energy corridors...and the uses of the corridors for power lines, pipelines and other transmission facilities on natural, scenic, cultural and historic values and areas..."

Rahall's bill also would require a public review and comment period before any stipulation of an oil and gas lease is waived. Additionally, the legislation would create an incentive for oil and gas operators to adopt best management practices by providing expedited permit review for any operator using those practices that does not seek a stipulation waiver.

Following the bill's introduction Wednesday, Rodger Schlickeisen, the president of the Defenders of Wildlife, said the legislation "provided the best indication yet of the kind of comprehensive legislative response that is needed from the committees of Congress if we are to chart a new energy future for this nation." He called the "scope and breadth" of Rahall's proposals "breathtaking and show that this Congress has the foresight and willingness to move swiftly to protect the interests of the nation and of future generations."

The committee will hold a full hearing on the legislation at 10 a.m. EST Wednesday, May 23. The hearing will be webcast on the committee's website at http://resourescommittee.house.gov.

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