Claim of sequester's impact on drilling just an excuse: senator
Washington (Platts)--27Feb2013/502 pm EST/2202 GMT
Key Republicans in the US House of Representatives and the Senate
decried claims Wednesday that the federal sequester could stall oil and
natural gas drilling, calling them empty threats from an Obama administration
that has been working for years to slow down energy production within the US.
"I think sequestration is just the most recent excuse to slow things
down," Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, the top Republican on the
Environment and Public Works Committee, said during a press conference on a
new energy bill he plans to introduce to expand drilling on public lands.
Vitter said the Obama administration's claims about the impact of
federal spending cuts on permitting for energy projects is just part of a
"general scare strategy that the world is ending because of sequestration."
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Representative Rob Bishop of Utah, the chairman of the Natural Resources'
Public Lands and Environment Regulation subcommittee, said administration
officials could not slow down the energy permitting process any more than
they have in recent years "unless they cut their hands off."
"To have this administration be slower in the permitting process is a
mind-boggling concept," said Bishop, who said the process is already plagued
by a "massive amount of redundancy and regulation."
"Right now we have too much regulation, too much bureaucracy, too much
redundancy," said Senator John Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican and member
of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Departing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has warned that the federal
permitting process for oil, gas and coal development on federal lands and
waters could slow to a crawl if the government does not find a way to
sidestep $1.2 trillion in mandatory spending cuts that will take effect
starting Friday if no long-term budget deal is reached.
Salazar said mandatory spending cuts also would delay environmental
reviews and inspections that energy projects need to go forward. In addition,
leasing for future development on federal land "would also be delayed, with
fewer resources available for agencies to prepare for and conduct lease
sales," Salazar said in a recent letter to Senator Barbara Mikulski, a
Maryland Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
According to Massachusetts Representative Edward Markey, the top
Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, the sequester would force
Interior to cut more than $17.3 million from the budgets of two agencies
responsible for issuing leases and ensuring drilling safety.
--Brian Scheid, email@example.com
--Edited by Valarie Jackson, firstname.lastname@example.org