President Bush last Thursday called on Senate and House Republican leaders to resolve their differences and get a bill to him that would open more of the federal offshore to oil and natural gas drilling.

“They need to come together between the House and the Senate [legislative versions] to encourage exploration in the Gulf of Mexico in new areas to make sure that we transition to a new day when it comes to energy,” Bush said at a renewable energy conference in St. Louis, MO.

He said he also backed provisions in both the Senate and House offshore drilling bills that would give coastal states a greater share of the federal royalties from production off their shores. “I believe that states ought to share in the royalties because I know, in the state of Louisiana, for example, they have committed their share of new royalties…to help protect their coastline,” Bush noted.

“I believe Congress needs to get the [offshore] bill to my desk as quick as possible. So when you finish elections, get back and let me sign this bill so the American people know we’re serious about getting off foreign oil.”

The Senate and the House have passed vastly different bills to open up parts of the federal Outer Continental Shelf to drilling, but lawmakers failed to negotiate a compromise on the measures before departing for the November elections last month. The negotiations reached a stalemate because while Senate leaders would prefer that the House accept their narrower OCS bill (S. 3711) in place of the more expansive House offshore bill (HR 4761), House leaders have resisted the overture. Republicans are expected to resume OCS talks during the lame-duck session.

The Senate bill would make available 8.3 million acres in the Lease Sale 181 area in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and in a tract south of Lease Sale 181 for oil and natural gas leasing. The more comprehensive House measure seeks to open up a greater swath of the OCS that has been closed to producers. It would give states bordering the Pacific and East Coasts the option to allow oil and gas drilling within 100 miles of their shorelines.

Bush said he supported more permitting of liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals in the United States as well. “There’s a lot of natural gas in the world, and it makes sense for us to be in a position to receive that natural gas in order to make sure you’ve got energy in your home.”

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