House Legislators to Tackle Lands Policy

Western legislators will be leading off one offensive of the new administration's energy strategy March 7, with a U.S. House Resources Committee hearing that explores restrictions on gas development on public lands and the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and their impact on power markets.

The aim is to come up with a bill to allow development and transportation of natural gas, Bill Condit, senior aide to Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY), told a meeting of the Natural Gas Roundtable in Washington last week. "There is too much gas there that is locked-up and not getting to market." Just to make it interesting, Condit expects the hot topic of having a lease sale in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will be part of the bill.

The White House National Energy Policy Development Group is expected to propose principles for the legislation and Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham are expected to weigh-in on the subject for the first time at the hearing. Also on tap are Govs. Tony Knowles of Alaska and Jim Geringer of Wyoming.

The House hearing, called by Chairman James Hansen, R-UT, will come about a week after Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-AK, unveils his proposed comprehensive energy legislation on the Senate side Feb. 26 (see NGI, Feb. 12).

Condit said he was optimistic that a bill would be signed, much like the one signed by President George Bush in 1992. "Lord knows we are in need of another iteration of a policy, because again, from the perspective of the subcommittee, we have all this gas tied up." It is time for the subcommittee as well as the full committee to figure out "how to get rid of these choke points that are keeping this gas that we know is there, from getting to market."

" Condit added that according to National Petroleum Council report, an estimated 137 Tcf of natural gas is restricted from getting to market from the Rocky Mountain Foreland Basin alone (see NGI, Feb. 21, 2000). The restrictions include a wide range of obstacles from untouchable parkland to high-cost drilling.

Condit said that getting Norton and her team to "cleanse the ethic" in the Interior Department that has "pervaded the area for the last eight years or so" is going to be difficult, but possible. He said this includes convincing DOI that one of its jobs is not "to create a national park out of the entire West, but rather to supply the nation with domestic mineral resources."

He also said that the subcommittee on energy and mineral resources, chaired by Cubin, plans to hold additional hearings on different energy issues, including the hardships imposed by former President Bill Clinton's roadless policy with the forest service.

Alex Steis

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