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Posted: August 9, 2012 5:20 p.m.

Finally a positive energy bill

What with all the terrible tragedies happening around the country and the wash of divisive and negative news on all fronts, it is indeed refreshing to see that we are making progress in one area: a good energy bill was proposed in the Senate that would begin to move us forward towards energy independence. This is a good but not perfect bill and goes a long way to moving us off our current energy policy failure.

Senator John Hoeven, R-ND, recently introduced the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act, which would greatly expand access to energy and simplify burdensome regulations that prevent projects from coming online in a timely manner. While the legislation could be improved by further increasing access and removing the top-down energy planning, DEJA would still spur economic growth and drive energy production.

DEJA would accept the State Department's environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline as sufficient and allow the state of Nebraska to reroute the pipeline to meet the state's environmental concerns. The State Department studied and addressed risks to soil, wetlands, water resources, vegetation, fish, wildlife and endangered species and concluded that construction of the pipeline would pose minimal environmental risk. The construction of Keystone XL would allow up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day to come from Canada to the Gulf Coast and create thousands of jobs.

DEJA also directs the Department of the Interior to conduct a lease sale off the coast of Virginia. The 2.9 million acres 50 miles off the coast has an estimated 130 million barrels of oil and 1.14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Opening access off Virginia's coast is long overdue, and the legislation only opens up a small portion of America's territorial waters that are off limits.

The Offshore Petroleum Expansion Now Act of 2012, also co-sponsored by Senator Hoeven, would replace President Obama's 2012-2017 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program with a much more robust plan that opens areas in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, in the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska.

Both DEJA and OPEN increase the royalties that states would receive from energy production, but both could go further to increase state involvement in offshore drilling decisions. Since onshore states already receive 50 percent of the royalties, Congress should also implement a 50/50 royalty-sharing program between federal and state governments involved in offshore drilling.

Another important component of DEJA is that it streamlines the permitting of all energy projects. Receiving a permit for any energy project, not just fossil fuels, takes entirely too long. Duplicative and unnecessary regulations slow the process and drive up costs. Furthermore, environmental activists delay new energy projects by filing endless administrative appeals and lawsuits. DEJA would create a manageable time frame for permitting for all energy sources to increase supply at lower costs and stimulate economic activity.

DEJA also calls for an end to the lengthy permit process in the Natural Petroleum Reserve area of Alaska. It would require the DOI to approve drilling permits within 60 days and infrastructure permits within six months.

DEJA would also prevent the DOI from issuing any rule under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 before 2014 that would adversely affect coal employment, reduce revenue from coal production, reduce coal for domestic consumption or export, designate areas as unsuitable for surface mining and reclamation, or expose the U.S. to liability by taking privately owned coal through regulation.

While this temporary fix recognizes the federal overreach in coal production, a better approach would be to create a framework that restricts over-regulation, empowers the states, balances economic growth and environmental well-being and creates a timely permitting process for all aspects of coal production.

Government restrictions and regulations are significantly impeding the market's effectiveness in responding to changes in energy prices and making it difficult for suppliers of all types of energy to produce energy and create jobs. DEJA would provide America with much needed energy supply and a much needed economic stimulus. However, rather than attempting to create federal energy production goals, Congress needs to simply remove the unnecessary bureaucracies that prohibit the market from responding to price changes.

Write your senator and support this bill. A proactive and aggressive energy policy will be a catalyst for private industry and the economy that will benefit the country and all of us personally.

 

William Perugino is active in local and regional politics and can be reached at 3peruginos@bellsouth.net.

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