House GOP Plans Amendments to Counter Rahall Energy Bill

WASHINGTON, Jun 6, 2007 (Dow Jones Newswires)

U.S. House Republicans are preparing a flurry of amendments to counter provisions in an energy bill critics say would stunt domestic oil and gas production, aides close to the matter said.

The raft of amendments principally seek to foil Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall's, D-W.Va., provisions to repeal 2005 Energy Policy Act laws designed to accelerate oil and gas production. The bill is scheduled for markup Wednesday in the Natural Resources Committee.

Republican members are considering several strategies, from simple amendments that strike the repeal language to a proposal that would give the Bush administration discretion on whether to implement Rahall's proposed law.

"There will be a number of amendments, between five to 15, that would require the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Energy to certify that (Rahall's) provisions won't increase cost of energy for consumers or increase dependency on foreign sources of energy," said an aide with the Republican leadership.

"And if either or both determine it will increase price or dependence, then those provision will not have the effect of law," he added.

Another senior aide with knowledge of the amendments confirmed that Republican members of the committee were preparing a legislative fusillade.

"It could be a close vote, and come down to attendance," the aide said, noting that several of the Democratic members come from such oil- and gas-producing states as Texas and Oklahoma.

Although environmentalists have widely applauded the bill for measures that would require tighter regulation and restrictions on permitting and leasing, industry groups have widely criticized Rahall's legislation.

In particular, it would cut provisions in the 2005 act that were intended to accelerate oil and gas development on public lands, exclude duplication of environmental impact assessments for some new leases, and fast-track permits to drill.

Rahall's bill would require any oil or gas the government receives as payment for energy development on federal lands to go toward the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. His bill also encourages clean-coal technologies and would impose a $1-per-acre fee on non-producing federal onshore oil, gas and coal leases. The money would go toward repairing lands damaged by oil and gas development.

"Rahall's bill defies logic, common sense and the basic economic laws of supply and demand," House Republican Leader John Boehner's office said in a press release earlier Tuesday.

"The bill ensures that less gasoline is produced and delivered to the pump here at home, and will lead to an increase in consumer prices, an increase in foreign dependence, fewer American jobs and more expensive consumer goods," Boehner's office said.

One of the aides said the Republicans would also offer provisions for coal and an amendment to counter a measure that would penalize producers for late royalty payments.

Copyright (c) 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.