Western legislators will be leading off one offensive of the newadministration’s energy strategy March 7, with a U.S. HouseResources Committee hearing that explores restrictions on gasdevelopment 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 andtransportation of natural gas, Bill Condit, senior aide to Rep.Barbara Cubin (R-WY), told a meeting of the Natural Gas Roundtablein Washington last week. “There is too much gas there that islocked-up and not getting to market.” Just to make it interesting,Condit expects the hot topic of having a lease sale in the ArcticNational Wildlife Refuge will be part of the bill.

The White House National Energy Policy Development Group isexpected to propose principles for the legislation and InteriorSecretary Gale Norton and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham areexpected to weigh-in on the subject for the first time at thehearing. Also on tap are Govs. Tony Knowles of Alaska and JimGeringer of Wyoming.

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

Condit said he was optimistic that a bill would be signed, muchlike the one signed by President George Bush in 1992. “Lord knowswe are in need of another iteration of a policy, because again,from the perspective of the subcommittee, we have all this gas tiedup.” It is time for the subcommittee as well as the full committeeto figure out “how to get rid of these choke points that arekeeping 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 tomarket from the Rocky Mountain Foreland Basin alone (see NGI, Feb. 21, 2000). The restrictions include awide range of obstacles from untouchable parkland to high-costdrilling.

Condit said that getting Norton and her team to “cleanse theethic” in the Interior Department that has “pervaded the area forthe 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 tosupply the nation with domestic mineral resources.”

He also said that the subcommittee on energy and mineralresources, chaired by Cubin, plans to hold additional hearings ondifferent energy issues, including the hardships imposed by formerPresident Bill Clinton’s roadless policy with the forest service.

Alex Steis

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