Shell President Sees Chance for Offshore Drilling Legislation


The president of Shell Oil Co. expressed hope yesterday that House and Senate lawmakers would resolve difference over offshore oil and gas drilling legislation in the waning days of the 109th Congress.

"I am hopeful that in the lame-duck session coming up that the bills currently in conference will be acted upon in both houses and signed by the president," John Hofmeister told reporters after speaking at a conference hosted by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations in Washington.

The chambers thus far have been unable to reconcile their respective plans to expand outer continental shelf oil and gas leasing. The Senate plan would expand Gulf of Mexico leasing, while House legislation goes much further by relaxing leasing bans that cover other coastal areas as well.

Asked if expansion of offshore access would be dead in the next Congress if Democrats win control, Hofmeister said, "The nation cannot afford to have this as a dead issue. The nation needs more access to be granted in whatever way the policymakers can decide."

Elsewhere, Shell's negotiations with the Interior Department over flawed offshore leases from 1998 and 1999 have yet to be resolved, Hofmeister said. He noted that Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne recently said a top Interior official would take a "fresh look" at talks between oil companies and the Bush administration over the issue (Greenwire, Oct. 17).

"We are waiting for the secretary to take a fresh look at the circumstances," Hofmeister said. Shell is among the companies that hold leases that allow royalty waivers but were mistakenly issued without so-called price thresholds that end the incentive when prices pass certain levels.

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