Bishop-Vitter proposal would open ANWR, jump-start stalled projects
Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
Companion bills to be introduced later today in the Senate and House would grant approval to oil and gas leases, a coal mine, a pipeline for Canadian oil sands and an Arctic offshore drilling proposal that were either halted or delayed in recent years by the Obama administration.
The proposal to be released at noon by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) would also require new leasing, adopt a George W. Bush administration plan for offshore oil and gas and allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Revenues from ANWR drilling would be placed in a trust fund to pay for renewable energy development, a program similar to other proposals by House Republicans. But those contributions would not take effect unless the federal budget is balanced, according to the bill.
The measure would also expedite the judicial and environmental review process for energy projects and limit reimbursements that environmental groups can receive from the federal government.
"Rising energy costs, unemployment and a $14 trillion dollar national debt are among the biggest challenges that our country is currently facing," Bishop said in an emailed statement. "This legislation uniquely addresses all three by allowing for the development of domestic resources, which in turn will create thousands of well-paying jobs and begin immediately paying down our $14 trillion dollar debt."
The "3-D" legislation -- which stands for the "Domestic Jobs, Domestic Energy, and Deficit Reduction Act of 2011" -- is similar to legislation Bishop pushed in 2009 in response to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Specific projects that would be approved or reinstated include 77 oil and gas leases sold in Utah in the final months of the George W. Bush administration that were withdrawn by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar amid concern that they were too close to national parks and other sensitive landscapes.
The bill would also force U.S. EPA to reissue a Clean Water Act permit for Spruce No. 1 coal mine in West Virginia and require the State Department to issue all permits necessary to allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline designed to ferry crude oil from Alberta's oil sands region to U.S. refineries. EPA would also be forced to reissue a permit for Royal Dutch Shell PLC to drill in Alaska's Beaufort Sea that was remanded by the agency's appeals board, canceling 2011 drilling.
Finally, the bill would amend the Clean Air Act by declaring carbon dioxide and methane from agriculture or livestock are not air pollutants and requiring EPA to do full economic analyses required under the act.
"We are the most energy rich country in the world, bar none," Vitter said yesterday on the Senate floor. The proposal, which he said has 20 to 30 supporters, "lays out that new energy vision to unlock the enormous potential."
Click here to read the legislation.