Rep plans new effort to end US offshore gas ban

02 March 2006 23:19  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Those fighting for expanded US natural gas supplies will open a new front next week as they seek to end the 25-year-old moratoria on gas development in the outer continental shelf (OCS), a key Congressman said on Thursday.


Representative John Peterson (Republican-Pennsylvania) said he will begin discussions next week with fellow members of the House Subcommittee on the Interior aimed at killing moratoria language that has been standard in Interior Department appropriations bills for more than two decades.


The Department of the Interior (DoI) oversees leasing and development of US-owned onshore and offshore energy resources. Since 1982, each House appropriations bill for DoI has carried brief language barring DoI from spending any money on leasing development tracts in 85% of US OCS territories.


Peterson said most members of Congress who vote annually to approve DoI appropriations bills were unaware - until now - that they also were approving continuing renewals of the energy development moratoria.


Next week, Peterson said, he will seek to have the moratoria language stripped out of the DoI appropriations bill now pending before the subcommittee. “Let’s take the language out of the Interior appropriations bill,” he said.  “And if those who want to continue the moratoria object, then let’s force them to re-introduce the moratoria language and have a vote on it.” He said opposition to the moratoria in the House has been growing as record-high natgas prices have hit households as well as industry.


He said he will discuss the tactic next week with subcommittee chairman Charles Taylor (Republican-North Carolina). If the effort to kill the moratoria fails at the subcommittee level, Peterson said he will try again when the Interior appropriations bill goes to the full Appropriations Committee for a vote.


If Peterson succeeds in getting the moratoria language killed, the Congressional moratoria on OCS energy development could end as soon as September this year.


A separate presidential “withdrawal” order also bars energy development over the same 85% of US OCS regions, but a spokesman for Peterson said that if Congress were to end its moratoria, President George W Bush would be hard-pressed to maintain the moratoria on his own.

By: Joe Kamalick
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