On the Hill
By Kevin Bliss
The U.S. House of Representatives on June 29 passed HR 4761, the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act of 2006. The vote was by a margin of 232-187. The bill was the culmination of years of work to produce legislation that would end the nearly 25-year federal prohibition on offshore drilling in many U.S. coastal areas. A significant feature of the legislation gives states the power to opt out of production up to 200 miles offshore for both oil and natural gas. The bill also would share revenue with coastal states and fund a number of other programs, including one endorsed by the IOGCC in its Resolution 05.095, which would provide revenues to maintain and encourage the growth of the energy and minerals workforce.
The bill is a combination of several offshore initiatives, including the Ocean State Options Act (OSOA) and the Peterson bill (HR 4318). While the IOGCC took no formal position on this legislation, many IOGCC coastal states were active in the negotiations and worked diligently in support of the legislation. Four states in particular – Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama – would gain substantially from the revenue sharing provisions of the bill. Those provisions are designed to encourage coastal states to agree to offshore drilling by offering them a significant share of the revenues from any production.
In the U.S. Senate, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee has bipartisanly approved a much more limited offshore bill, S. 2253, which is currently awaiting a vote. That bill would require the Secretary of the Interior to offer the Section 181 area of the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas leasing. Because of the threat of a filibuster by the Florida delegation, the bill is expected to need 60 votes. Sen. Pete Domenici has stated that he is hopeful that S. 2253 will pass the Senate in July and that a House-Senate Conference Committee would then make an effort to reconcile the two bills.
In other energy news, the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee approved the Energy and Water Appropriations bill for 2007, which subsequently was approved by the full Senate Appropriations Committee. The full Senate is expected to take up the bill in July. While the Senate restored some funds for fossil energy oil and natural gas research and development, the amount funded is significantly smaller than last year and much of it appears earmarked for specific activities, such as gas hydrate research and research into unconventional resource development. The apparent reason for the decrease in funding to the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy is the subcommittee’s conclusion that “much of the oil and gas research has been replaced by the Ultradeep program authorized in Section 999 of the [Energy Policy Act of 2005]” (EPACT) that receives funding in the amount of $50 million directly from oil and natural gas lease income.
The subcommittee regrettably did not include funding this year for the orphan well program (authorized in Section 349 (g) and (h) of EPACT) that would have provided monies to the states on a matching basis through the IOGCC to help plug and remediate orphan and abandoned oil and natural gas wells on state and private land. This was in spite of the IOGCC securing the signatures of 16 senators on a letter of support to Sens. Domenici and Harry Reid, chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Committee (see story below). The committee appeared to focus its funding of EPACT measures on those promising to increase domestic oil and natural gas production. The IOGCC gratefully acknowledges the incredible support of member state official representatives and oil and gas directors in contacting their senators in support of this effort. It clearly showed strong Senate support for this initiative.
16 Senators Support Orphan Well Environmental Initiative
The following 16 senators signed a letter to Chairman Domenici and Ranking Member Reid of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee supporting a $10 million appropriation to the states, through the IOGCC, for an environmental program to assist states in permanently plugging orphaned oil and natural gas wells on state and private lands:
Senator James Inhofe (R, Oklahoma)
Senator Jeff Bingaman (D, New Mexico)
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R, Alaska)
Senator Kent Conrad (D, North Dakota)
Senator Michael Enzi (R, Wyoming)
Senator Orrin Hatch (R, Utah)
Senator Ben Nelson (D, Nebraska)
Senator Jim Bunning (R, Kentucky)
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D, New York)
Senator John Cornyn (R, Texas)
Senator Pat Roberts (R, Kansas)
Senator Blanche Lincoln (D, Arkansas)
Senator Max Baucus (D, Montana)
Senator Mark Pryor (D, Arkansas)
Senator Ken Salazar (D, Colorado)
Senator Chuck Hagel (R, Nebraska)
IOGCC Provides NORM Training
The IOGCC recently sponsored a Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) training event for the Railroad Commission (RRC) of Texas in Austin, Texas. Amy M. Wright, federal projects manager for the IOGCC, worked with Leslie Savage, director of planning and administration for the RRC Oil and Gas Division, to present the training.
The training, led by Scott Winters of Chase Environmental Group, consisted of a daylong training session for 28 employees of the RRC. The employees’ job descriptions included environmental services, site remediation and field operations.
The course topics included: Basic Health Physics, Radiation Terms, Risk Assessment, Field Operations, Regulatory Overview, Instrumentation and Field Training Exercises.
The course finished with a hands-on training session involving instruments used to measure NORM and learning to obtain data from the instrument. The training session ended with a short NORM workshop quiz and a course evaluation. RRC also approached the IOGCC to provide the training to other district offices in the state.
Hansen Named to Board of Advisors
IOGCC Executive Director Christine Hansen has been named to the Board of Advisors for the Consumer Energy Alliance. The Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) supports the development and utilization of energy resources to ensure enhanced energy security and stable prices for consumers. It is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help improve consumer understanding of the nation’s energy security, including the need to reduce reliance on imported oil and natural gas.
The Consumer Energy Alliance will work to inform consumers about the proper balancing of the nation’s energy needs with environmental and conservation goals and to continue efforts to diversify domestic energy resources.
This new consumer organization will work to gain grassroots consumer input on national energy issues, particularly those affecting domestic production of natural gas and oil. For instance, during the recent request by the U.S. Mineral Management Service (MMS) for comments on its plan to lease properties in the intercontinental shelf, the CEA was directly responsible for delivering nearly 2,000 comments supporting offshore production.
- Eight individuals from Oklahoma recently passed the National Inspector Certification Program test. They are:
Dennis M. Darragh
Lloyd Wayne Stinson
Allen W. Clark
Hank Jay Barth
- General Session speaker transcripts from the recent IOGCC Midyear Issues Summit in Billings, Mont., are now available on the IOGCC Web site.
- Dirk Kempthorne recently was sworn in as the new secretary of the Interior, succeeding Gale Norton. A two-term governor of Idaho (an IOGCC associate member state) and former Republican senator, he was confirmed in late May by the U.S. Senate and sworn in early in June. According to the Associated Press, Kempthorne told senators he was eager to expand oil and gas development on public lands and waters that already produce 30 percent of the nation's domestic supply of energy.
- Jim Daniels, IOGCC associate representative for Kansas, recently wrote a letter to the editor published in National Parks magazine. Daniels refuted several inaccuracies in the article 'What Lies Beneath." The IOGCC thanks Jim for taking the time to write the letter.
- IOGCC headquarters staff members April Jennings, Amy Wright, Mary Oberly and Christine Hansen participated recently in a city clean-up effort. "Litter Blitz" was intended to help clean up parks and public areas in the Oklahoma City metro area.
- Do you have a story idea for Compact Comments? Please send it to Kristen Marquez, IOGCC communications associate.