US House panel to investigate Obama energy rules in May

17 April 2013 18:49 Source:ICIS News

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--A leading US House member on energy issues said on Wednesday that he will convene hearings next month to examine what he said were duplicative Obama administration oil and gas regulations that impede production.

Representative Doc Hastings of Washington, Republican chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said that Congress needed to take action on “the administration’s continued focus on duplicative, unnecessary and costly regulations”.

In remarks at the opening of his committee hearing on Wednesday comparing federal energy permitting practices with state policies and performance, Hastings charged that “The Obama administration’s federal energy policies are costing American jobs, impeding economic growth and recovery, and robbing the US Treasury of much needed revenue to help us balance our budget”.

He focused in particular on anticipated federal rules on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), the technique that along with horizontal drilling has triggered a boom in US domestic production of natural gas and oil from shale deposits.

He said the administration’s upcoming fracking rules “would be another layer of red tape and bureaucracy” on a drilling technology “that states have been successfully regulating for decades”.

In the hearing on Wednesday, Hastings said that effective state-level regulation of energy development has a long track record that has paid off in safe production gains.

“Energy production on state and private lands is flourishing – creating new jobs and thriving, health economies,” he said. “These lands are the epicentre of the energy renaissance we’re currently experiencing.”

He said that state regulation of oil and gas exploration and development is not as onerous as federal rules, “and as a result, the average time to get a drilling permit approved is only 12-15 days.”

In contrast, he said, “The average time to get a drilling permit approved [on federal lands] is 307 days… [and] that is nearly double the 154 days the process took in 2005”.

“We have tremendous potential for new onshore oil and natural gas production on federal lands, but the Obama administration is actively and purposely keeping these resources off-limits,” Hastings said.

“Perhaps one of the most egregious examples of this occurred earlier this year when the administration finalised plans to close over half of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska [NPR-A] to energy production,” he said.

That action, he added, demonstrated that “the Obama administration is not only prohibiting energy development in new areas, but actually closing off millions of acres in an area [NPR-A] that was specifically set aside for energy production”.

The Wednesday hearing featured testimony from state government officials who charged that federal policies increasingly are impeding energy development under state jurisdiction.

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