Increased domestic oil and gas production and partnerships with Canada and Mexico to achieve North American energy independence by 2020 are part of the energy policy agenda laid out by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Romney outlined his plan Thursday during a campaign stop in Hobbs, N.M., according to media reports. His plan calls by the energy industry and some members of Congress to reduce red tape for onshore permitting on federal lands, open more offshore areas to drilling and approve the Keystone XL pipeline bid to bring the United States closer to achieving energy independence.
In his plan, Romney touted potential benefits of expanding development of U.S. energy resources, including:
"While every President since Nixon has tried to achieve this goal [of energy independence by 2020], analysts across the spectrum – energy experts, investment firms, even academics at Harvard University – now recognize that surging U.S. energy production, combined with the resources of America's neighbors, can meet all of the continent's energy needs within a decade," Romney said in the plan.
"The key is to embrace these resources and open access to them," Romney said.
More Control to States for Onshore Development
Romney's plan includes:
Under Romney's plan, states will be allowed to establish processes to oversee production and development of all forms of energy on federal lands within their borders, except lands specially designated off-limits. State regulatory processes and permitting programs for all forms of energy development will be deemed to satisfy all requirements of federal law.
Federal agencies will certify state processes as adequate, according to established criteria that are sufficiently broad, to afford the states maximum flexibility to ascertain what is the most appropriate.
The federal government also will encourage the formation of a State Energy Development Council, where states will work together with existing organizations such as the IOGCC [Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission] to share expertise and best management practices.
Romney said that the decline of oil and gas production on federal lands last year that occurred as production on state and private lands soared was no accident, saying that President Obama has intentionally sought to shut down oil, gas and coal production to pursue an alternative energy agenda.
"Federal land open for exploration has declined nearly 20 percent on his watch, and the rate of permitting is down 37 percent," Romney said. "It now takes a shocking 307 days to receive the permits to drill a new well."
Meanwhile, the wait time for permitting from state agencies in North Dakota, Ohio and Colorado takes between 10 and 27 days. Romney also pointed out that state agencies are better equipped to regulate energy development.
Opening More Offshore Areas to Exploration
Romney's offshore agenda includes establishment of a new five-year offshore leasing plan that will open areas offshore Virginia and the Carolinas for exploration, while also guaranteeing state-of-the-art processes and safeguards for offshore drilling to be implemented in a way to support exploration and production.
Romney said President Barack Obama was stifling exploration offshore as well as onshore by blocking access to billions of barrels of oil offshore Virginia.
"The [Obama] administration has canceled more leases than it has held and slowed the rate of permitting by over 60 percent," Romney noted.
"As a result, offshore oil production declined 14 percent last year and production in the Gulf of Mexico this year will be 25 percent below what had been expected before the Obama policies took effect." Romney noted.
His plan sets minimum production targets for each five-year leasing plan, including annual Congressional reports on progress in reaching goals and implementing new policies to compensate for any shortfall.
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have already sought to overturn the Obama administration's proposed five-year offshore drilling plan, replacing it with a plan to that expands the amount of acreage open for leasing as well as the number of lease sales.
Keystone Pipeline Approval
Romney is also calling for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, noting that Obama had "chosen to turn his back on America's neighbors" by not allowing the pipeline to move forward, resulting in Canada planning to export oil to China instead.
By collaborating with Canada - which has ample oil supply from its oil sands - and Mexico -which is showing renewed interest in collaborating to increase its energy development - America can guarantee itself a reliable and affordable supply of energy while also opening up new opportunities for American businesses and workers in the region, Romney noted.
Romney's North America agenda includes the establishment of a regional agreement to facilitate cross-border energy investment, infrastructure and sale.
Promoting and expanding regulatory cooperation between governments to encourage responsible energy production, including the creation of a forum for sharing best practices and technologies, also is part of Romney's energy agenda.
Romney would also seek to institute fast-track regulatory approval processes for cross- border pipelines and other infrastructure.
Updating Resource Estimates
Under Romney's plan, assessments of U.S. energy resources will be updated through the approval of seismic surveys and offshore exploration, collaboration with Canada and Mexico to ensure accurate inventory of their resources and sharing of data, as well as requiring onshore geological and geophysical data to be shared with the Department of the Interior.
"Every assessment of America's energy resources indicates tremendous potential," said Romney. "
Yet many of these assessments are outdated, based on decades-old technology, and lacking in the data that only becomes available once development begins," said Romney, saying that Obama has used the lack of information, coupled with confusion over the definition of proved reserves and recoverable resources, to say that U.S. energy resources are scarce.
Improving the Environmental Review Process
Romney will also seek to improve the environmental review process by setting clear deadlines and statutes of limitations, requiring better coordination between federal agencies, and allowing state reviews to satisfy federal requirements.
Additionally, agencies would be prevented from using "sue-and-settle" techniques behind close doors to circumvent the public rulemaking process, impose onerous regulations, and tie the hands of future administration.
Romney would also require the disclosure of federal funds spent to reimburse groups for lawsuits against the government, such as the case of the dunes sagebrush lizard.
"Modernizing America's complex environmental statutes, regulations, and permitting processes is crucial to ensuring that the nation can develop its resources safely and efficiently," said Romney. "Laws should promote a rational approach to regulation rather than impede development."
Focusing government investment on research across a range of energy-related technologies and ensuring that policies to expand energy development not only for oil and gas, but coal and renewable energy resources such as wind also are part of Romney's plan.
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