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GOP: Energy 'Nightmare' Is Democrats' Legacy

GOP: Energy 'Nightmare' Is Democrats' Legacy

At the Republican National Conference in Philadelphia last week, Republicans unveiled an energy platform that was highly critical of the existing policies of the Department of Energy (DOE), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The DOE "has utterly failed in its mission to safeguard America's energy security. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has been no better, and the Environmental Protection Agency has been shutting off America's energy pipeline with a regulatory blitz that has only just begun," according to the Republican National Committee platform. FERC, countered Chairman James Hoecker "operates on a bipartisan basis, and we think we've done a great job."

The policies and regulations of the three agencies have created a "man-made nightmare," but "at last the public is waking up and demanding change," it said. "What is at stake, after all, is not just the price we pay to heat and cool our homes," but rather a "New Economy, which relies heavily on electricity for its infrastructure and on petroleum for its trade."

Not surprisingly, the Republican platform accused the Democratic administration and the Democrats in Congress of dawdling over legislation to deregulate electricity markets. Democratic lawmakers "are holding up the process, and the administration has provided no leadership," it noted.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who was picked as the Republican presidential nominee last week, vowed to work with Republican congressional leaders to pass the National Energy Security Act of 2000, which was introduced by Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) in May. The measure proposes a broad-based package of tax measures and other incentives to spur the production of crude oil, natural gas and alternative energy in the Lower 48 states and Alaska.

Specifically, it seeks to open up for the first time the Coastal Plain of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to exploration and development of oil and natural gas reserves; offer tax incentives for marginal oil and gas producers; improve federal oil and gas lease permit processing and management; provide royalty relief for producers in remote Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) areas; allow the expensing of oil and gas exploration costs and the delay of rental payments; expand the tax credit for renewable energy sources; and maintain the ethanol tax credit.

The legislation also calls for the creation of a home heating oil reserve in the Northeast to lessen the severity of the price spikes that occurred last winter. But the DOE --- at the request of President Clinton --- has beaten the Republicans to the punch. The agency is in the process of establishing such a reserve as part of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Nevertheless, the Republicans believe the Murkowski bill is a "dramatic reversal of the nation's present course," and will provide a "balanced portfolio of energy options that is stable, secure and affordable, with minimal impact on the environment."

Landowners, whose opposition to gas pipelines has reached a feverish pitch in the last few years, may gain even more clout under a Republican administration. "For reasons both constitutional and environmental.....we will safeguard private property rights by enforcing the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment and by providing just compensation whenever private property is needed to achieve a compelling public purpose," the party's platform said.

Also, Republicans said they supported "multiple use of public lands conducted in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner," which should be good news for energy producers whose access to such lands for drilling has been limited in recent years under the Clinton administration.

Susan Parker

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