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Richardson: More Help On the Way for Producers

March 8, 1999
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Richardson: More Help On the Way for Producers

While making clear the administration would not be engaging in any market-rigging through price ceilings or floors, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said it nevertheless was working on further measures to aid the depressed oil and gas industry.

One of the measures could be some form of tax credits, Richardson said, responding to questions at a National Press Club luncheon last week. But he cautioned the matter is still under discussion in the administration. Also, reminding he was from New Mexico and had an understanding of the problems of the oil and gas sector, the energy secretary said he would be visiting Oklahoma and other energy states to discuss the situation. The administration further is planning a meeting at the White House with industry representatives "very soon. We're ready to come up with a plan to help, but we will not interfere in oil markets or with oil prices." Richardson pointed out the administration had already taken some actions to help, such as filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve with domestic oil and relaxing federal royalties for marginal wells.

The energy secretary also promised a new Energy Department bill would be offered within six weeks to restructure and reform the electric industry which "will be better policy-wise and get a few more votes - that's not saying much because there weren't that many votes last year.

"I am going to push this bill and I predict that at the end of this congressional session we will have an electricity reform bill -- a bi-partisan bill," which will be "more consumer friendly, greener and more competitive."

The first question out of the box after Richardson's speech was whether he would be running for vice president on a Gore ticket or for governor of New Mexico. And the answer: "I'm happy where I am," but at the same time "it's not in my hands." Richardson, who has been looking more and more like a national candidate recently, said he wanted to stay at the Energy Department for awhile since the agency has had several top executives over the last year and "hasn't shown that much stability." Richardson himself has had two jobs in the last year, taking over as energy secretary in August while still holding down the post of U.S. delegate to the United Nations. The overlap was due to a congressional flap over the confirmation of his successor at the U.N.

Ellen Beswick

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