In a rebuff to the Senate Republicans’ omnibus energy bill, theranking Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural ResourcesCommittee plans to introduce his own comprehensive energylegislation this week, according to a spokeswoman.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) intends to take a “more centrist andbalanced approach” to domestic energy issues in his bill, said thesenator’s spokeswoman, Jude McCartin. The Republican energy measureunveiled by Sen.Frank Murkowski (R-AK) in late February “wasfocused pretty heavily on the supply side,” but Bingaman’slegislation will propose a mix of initiatives aimed at bothboosting energy supply and limiting demand, she noted.

A draft of Bingaman’s measure includes a series of proposals toimprove energy efficiency, reflecting the senator’s belief thatimproved efficiency is the single most effective and least costlyway for the nation to work through its short-term and long-termenergy problems. “We cannot produce our way to independence fromforeign oil supplies,” Bingaman said two weeks ago.

Of interest to the oil and natural gas industries, the Bingamanmeasure is expected to address an area that the Republicans stayedclear of in their legislation — producer access to public lands.A draft of his bill calls for an inventory to be taken of publiclands with the greatest geological potential, focusing on the “mostprospective areas, evaluation of geological complexity and cost ofdevelopment.”

Bingaman also proposes increased planning and staffing atagencies to facilitate the development of public lands. Inaddition, the draft seeks a review of the policies and practicesthat are restricting oil and gas development on non-federal lands.The proposed initiative also is expected to include a provision orprovisions that seek to maximize deep-water production of oil andnatural gas.

Unlike the Republican’s energy legislation, the Bingaman billwill not include a provision to open the coastal plain region ofthe Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration anddevelopment, McCartin said. However, it will propose tax incentivesfor early construction of a long-line natural gas pipeline fromPrudhoe Bay on the North Slope of Alaska to the Lower 48 states,she noted.

Susan Parker

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