The House Appropriations Committee Tuesday voted out an appropriations bill for fiscal year (FY) 2008 that calls for $2.75 million to be spent on the purchase of natural gas to heat and cool the Capitol building.

The amendment allocating funds for the purchase of natural gas was sponsored by Rep. John Peterson (R-PA) as part of the legislative branch appropriations bill for FY 2008.

The Peterson measure also calls for the federal government to study the anticipated increase of natural gas usage and associated costs of converting the Capitol power plant to natural gas for heating and cooling needs. Furthermore, the amendment would require an analysis of theoretical consumer costs, if this same percentage of natural gas that is being used to heat and cool the Capitol would be applied nationally.

The appropriations bill, including the Peterson amendment, is expected to be voted on in the House next week, said Peterson spokesman Travis Windle.

"I applaud Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi for her willingness to move to clean, green natural gas to heat and cool the Capitol. However, I take issue in the fact that the Speaker's plan doesn't adequately address the long-term availability of our natural gas supply, In fact, I believe that it's fairly hypocritical that Speaker Pelosi is mandating use of natural gas, yet continues to reject further domestic production," said Peterson, who supports opening more federal waters to natural gas production.

Peterson said he plans to unveil a stand-alone bill in the coming weeks that will remove the congressional moratorium on natural gas leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in certain areas. The bipartisan measure would provide states the right to drill for natural gas off their coasts, while directing royalties to producing states, various environmental restoration projects across the county, the Low-Income Heating Energy Assistance Program, weatherization programs and research and development for alternative and renewable energy.

This is the second time that Peterson has tried to push through Congress legislation that is favorable to offshore energy drilling. Last year the House approved a bill to open historically closed portions of the federal OCS to oil and gas drilling, but it never made it through the Senate (see Daily GPI, June 30, 2006). In the end, Congress passed a narrower piece of legislation to open more of the Gulf of Mexico to leasing (see Daily GPI, Dec. 21, 2006).

But this proposed legislation will be different, Windle said. "It's a natural gas-only bill. We have great hopes for it. We are building a big coalition" to support its passage, he noted.

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