In an effort to promote a more balanced approach to a national energy agenda, Congressman Adam Smith yesterday voted against final passage of HR 2436, The Energy Security Act, in the Resources Committee, instead supporting an alternative measure that focused on modernizing our energy infrastructure and common sense energy exploration on our public lands.
"The bill passed out of the Resources Committee continues our country's dependence on fossil fuels and ignores any reasonable, balanced approach to resolve the energy crisis," said Smith.
The legislation streamlines the public lands leasing process and includes $7 billion in "royalty relief": Measures to exempt oil and gas companies from paying fair market value for using public lands for resource extraction.
"The high price of energy ought to be incentive enough for businesses to drill for natural gas and oil on public lands," said Smith. "I certainly don't believe we should cheat the taxpayer by not charging fair market value for the resources on our public lands."
The bill also opens up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for drilling, a provision which Smith opposes, and is widely viewed as unlikely to be approved by the House or Senate. On a vote of 30-19 the committee failed to pass an amendment which would have prevented this.
Smith instead voted for an alternative package which would have expedited construction of a natural gas pipeline from Alaska to the lower 48 states. Originally authorized by Congress in 1976, the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline would enhance the delivery of 35 trillion cubic feet of natural gas already discovered in existing development fields to the lower 48 States through the construction of a pipeline delivery system that follows the Alaska Highway.
"I've learned that one of our biggest energy problems is transmission congestion," explained Smith. "We need ways to move oil and natural gas around the country, and we need transmission lines to move electricity. Simply authorizing more drilling on our public lands without relieving the congestion we already have in our energy infrastructure doesn't make sense."
The substitute would have also provided the Administrator of the Western Area Power Administration to take such actions as necessary to relieve power transmission constraints, and ensured that the American public receives just compensation from the development of oil and gas resources on federal lands and waters. It would have doubled the Land and Water Conservation Fund's authorized annual use of receipts generated by Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leasing activities from $900 million to $1.8 billion through 2015.
The substitute failed 21-30.
"Although I am disappointed that this bill was not substantially improved in the Resources Committee, I am committed to working in a bipartisan manner on this critical issue," said Smith. "I am hopeful that we can construct an energy package with a technology emphasis that would focus on modernizing our energy infrastructure, energy efficiency, and renewable energy sources."
Other House Committees are working on pieces of the President's energy package this week. Floor action is expected on some pieces before August.