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Chamber of Commerce to Feds: Open More Lands to Drilling, Back Off Frack Rules

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Wednesday the federal government should create an offshore leasing and exploration program, open more of the land it owns onshore to oil and natural gas drilling, and refrain from finalizing proposed rules for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on federal land.

On Wednesday, the chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy unveiled a new comprehensive energy plan, divided into nine policy areas -- including one devoted to oil and natural gas -- and containing 64 policy recommendations for the federal government.

In a preview last week, Chamber CEO Tom Donohue said one of the "key parts" of its 2014 strategy is to "advance and protect America’s energy revolution" through the production of more domestic energy, the improvement of infrastructure and the modernization of the government's regulatory process (see Daily GPI, Jan. 9).

On Wednesday Donohue said the platform it is advocating through its energy plan, Energy Works for US, "will create millions of jobs, billions of dollars in revenue, and trillions of dollars of private investment. America now has the opportunity to become an energy superpower, but our national energy policy is stuck in the past. The platform will allow us to realize our full potential."

The energy plan also listed extensive policy recommendations for coal, nuclear energy, renewables, energy efficiency, workforce competitiveness, regulatory transparency, and protecting the nation’s energy infrastructure from cyber and physical attack.

Adopting a pro-gas/oil industry position, the Chamber said the United States should remove barriers to increased domestic oil and natural gas production and fuel manufacturing, and issued 10 policy recommendations -- directed at the Department of Interior (DOI), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and DOI's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) -- to do precisely that.

Under the first recommendation, the Chamber said DOI "must commit to harnessing the nation's oil and natural gas resources by enabling substantially greater access to the lands and waters owned by Americans."

To do that, the Chamber said DOI "should propose a new leasing and exploration plan for the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) that provides the opportunities for leasing on our oceans and the Gulf," and "must make significantly more onshore federal lands available for energy development and remove the bias on leasing federal lands for the production of advanced fuels like oil shale and oil sands."

The Chamber's nine other recommendations for oil and gas are:

  • Congress should provide a 37.5% share of royalty revenues from all new production on the OCS to states adjacent to the development areas;
  • BLM should refrain from finalizing a proposed rule regulating fracking on federal lands until it first seeks the input of the states and industry to ensure any future rules are addressing an existing regulatory gap, based in sound policy and not a rush to demonstrate the ability to regulate (see Shale Daily, Dec. 4, 2013);
  • EPA should cease its effort to regulate fracking by circumventing the rule-making process and instead unlawfully issuing regulations disguised as guidance documents (see Shale Daily, July 12, 2013; March 27, 2013);
  • Congress should refrain from leveling punitive taxes on the oil and natural gas industry;
  • Congress should pass legislation that would ensure producers and users of commodities can continue to use over-the-counter swaps to hedge their business risk, without the burden of clearing and margin requirements;
  • Congress must adequately fund and DOE must pursue research and development focused on the production and utilization of advanced unconventional energy sources such as oil shale and oil sands;
  • DOE and the Department of Commerce should provide a non-discretionary license to any applicant proposing to export domestically produced natural gas or crude oil to any WTO [World Trade Organization] member nation;
  • There should be no discrimination against the use of Canadian oil sands crude, including Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and Low Carbon Fuel Standards; and
  • EPA should withdraw its Tier 3 gasoline sulfur rule (see Daily GPI ,June 22, 2012).

"Unconventional oil and gas alone are expected to generate hundreds of billions of dollars in local, state and federal revenues, and create or support millions of American jobs. Continuing to optimize these valuable resources to help grow the U.S. economy will depend on smart energy policies that do not limit or restrict development."

Outside of recommendations specifically tailored to oil and gas, the Chamber also recommended that the federal government "ensure timely review" of energy infrastructure and development projects. It cited the "red tape" surrounding regulatory approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

"The Keystone XL Pipeline Project has been delayed for five years despite 15,000 pages of review, including formal reviews by the EPA and the State Department, which found that the pipeline would have limited environmental impacts during construction and operation," the Chamber said.

Last month, Donohue told the Chamber's environment, technology and regulatory affairs division in Washington, DC, that the federal government's regulatory climate was out of control, and promised that the organization would redouble "its effort to roll back the regulatory onslaught," (see Daily GPI, Dec. 4, 2013).

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