This Week in the Congress

by Myron Ebell on February 19, 2012

in Blog

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House Passes Energy Bill That Includes ANWR and Keystone Pipeline

The House of Representatives voted on Thursday evening, 16th February, for a package of four energy bills that if enacted will greatly expand U. S. oil and natural gas production on federal lands and the Outer Continental Shelf plus permit the Keystone XL pipeline. The omnibus energy bill, H. R. 3408, passed by a vote of 237 to 187.  Twenty-one Democrats voted yes, and twenty-one Republicans voted no.

The most significant provision would require the Department of the Interior to open a small portion of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska’s North Slope to oil and gas exploration.  Producing oil in ANWR has been an issue since Congress enlarged the Refuge in 1980 and allowed oil production in the coastal plain subject to a report from the Department of the Interior that it could be done without compromising the Refuge’s purpose of protecting wildlife.  That report was issued in 1986.  The Congress passed legislation in 1995 to open ANWR, but President Bill Clinton vetoed it.  The House and Senate passed different bills opening ANWR in 2005, but couldn’t agree on the same bill.

The U. S. Geological Survey estimates that the coastal plain contains over ten billion barrels of economically recoverable reserves.  If exploration wells hit oil, production could begin within a few years.  This is important because production in Prudhoe Bay is declining and the Trans Alaska Pipeline is now running at less than half full.  As production continues to decline, at some point the oil will stop flowing in the pipeline.  Producing significant amounts of oil from offshore leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas is quite a few years away because of permitting delays, serial lawsuits filed by environmental pressure groups, and the physical challenges involved in building the necessary offshore infrastructure in the Arctic Ocean.

Another important provision takes the decision to permit the 1700-mile Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries out of the President’s hands and essentially orders the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to issue the permit within thirty days.  President Obama’s decision in mid-January that he was not going to issue the permit because he couldn’t determine whether it was in the national interest has caused a flurry of activity in Canada to start permitting an alternative pipeline from the oil sands to a port on the British Columbia coast, where the oil would be loaded on tankers bound for China and other Asian countries.

Another title in the bill would require the Administration to lease large Outer Continental Shelf tracts for oil and gas exploration off the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf coasts that have the highest potential.  The bill directs the Secretary of the Interior to establish production goals in the 2012-17 OCS plan and provides 37.5% of the federal oil royalties to the States where the oil is being produced offshore.  The fourth title would require the Administration to set rules to begin the development of oil shale in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming.

Senator Inhofe Files Resolution To Block Utility MACT Rule

The Obama Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency published in the Federal Register its long-delayed Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology (or MACT) Rule on Thursday, 16th February.  The Utility MACT Rule sets limits on emissions of mercury, lead, and other heavy metals.  As my CEI colleague William Yeatman has pointed out (more than once), the rule is preposterous.  It has huge costs and no health benefits.

Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) immediately announced that he was filing a resolution of disapproval of the Utility MACT Rule under the Congressional Review Act (or CRA).  The CRA provides for straight up-or-down votes in the Senate that require only a simple majority to pass, rather than the 60 votes now customary for taking up any controversial bill on the Senate floor.  Moreover, the resolution can be brought to the floor over the objections of the Majority Leader, Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.).   If the Senate and the House both vote in favor of the CRA resolution, then it would be sent to President Obama for his signature or, more likely, veto.


BobRGeologist February 19, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Consistently irrational EPA, science deficient, stubborn blockheads, out to destroy our economy overegulation of CO2 as a pollutant in our atmosphere. Science has proven it an insignificant agent in man caused global warming (AGW). I predict that down the road, time-wise, we will be striving to strengthen CO2 in greenhouse gases in the attempt to head off recurring Pleistocene Ice Age #6, and increase plant growth to feed the ever-
growing human population simultaneously.

BobRGeologist February 20, 2012 at 7:17 pm

I suspect these restrictions on heavy metals is a last ditch attempt to hinder coal burning utilities in the generation of electricity, an important move by Obama in his campaign to wreck our industrial economy by inflating the price of energy. It is also a part of his war against the backbone of America, its middle class, with gasoline prices about to reach $4 per gallon. I cannot believe the level of stupidity in the section of our electorate that put an unqualified Muslim in charge of our Government.

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