15 July 2008 21:43 [Source: ICIS news]
Congressmen John Peterson (Republican-Pennsylvania) and Neil Abercrombie (Democrat-Hawaii) said the first meeting of their "Energy Working Group" on Monday evening exceeded expectations and drew more participation than expected. They plan another meeting of the group on Wednesday, they said.
“We are very pleased at the level of commitment among the group of 23 Republicans and Democrats from all parts of the country who were able to attend the first meeting and begin working together to develop a real national energy plan,” Peterson and Abercrombie said.
Amid mounting pressure for Congress to lift its 27-year-old moratorium on drilling in 85% of US offshore regions, the two representatives said that “a comprehensive approach must include regulatory reform, increased domestic production, conservation and real investment in renewable and alternative energy technologies”.
They said they hope to have a bill drafted and introduced before Congress begins its month-long summer recess on 9 August.
US chemicals producers are heavily dependent on natural gas as a feedstock and have been lobbying Congress for years to release more of the country's abundant offshore reserves for development.
Peterson and Abercrombie have frequently advocated an end to the congressional offshore drilling ban. They have cosponsored a bill that would allow offshore energy development, share federal royalty revenues with coastal states and fund alternative and renewable energy research.
The working group is about evenly divided among Republicans and Democrats, according to Patrick Creighton, spokesman for Peterson.
The group of House members will meet again on Wednesday evening, Creighton said, and additional members are welcome, “as long as the makeup remains evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats”.
The meeting Wednesday will “discuss various options that were presented at the initial meeting” on Monday, he said, noting that "the only major complaint in Monday night's meeting was that the meeting room was too small".
Dave Helfert, spokesman for Congressman Abercrombie, said that “the idea is to get short-term and longer-term ideas on the table and see what is most acceptable to the majority of both Republicans and Democrats in the group”.
“Not all of the proposals will necessarily be something that is everyone’s favourite item, but the idea is to find things that are acceptable and that most members can support or at least live with and that can be put into a bill or made into a package of bills,” Helfert said.
The plan is to get a House energy bill introduced before the recess, Helfert said, noting that a similar bipartisan group of senators, known as the Gang of Ten, is working along similar lines in the Senate.
With US retail gasoline prices above $4/gal and climbing, members of Congress of both parties are under increasing public pressure to do something to ease the
Public pressure on House members is especially intense because every member of that chamber is up for re-election in the
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