July 18, 2008

Rahall Leads Oil Drilling Fight

By Mannix Porterfield, The Register-Herald, Beckley, W.Va.

Jul. 18--Scoffing Republican pleas to open the fertile oil fields of Alaska as a "bumper sticker" policy, Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia led a failed House push Thursday to compel Big Oil to use available permitted land to find more crude.

While the bill gained a numerical majority of 244-173 , it couldn't muster a required two-thirds margin under a rule that required a super-majority vote.

Put simply, the Democratic bill officially known as the Drill Responsibly in Leased Lands Act is known as the "use it or lose" plan.

"Where better to drill than the National Petroleum Reserve," Rahall, D-W.Va., intoned in moving the bill out to the floor for a vote.

"That is what it is for. That is why it was set aside. The National Petroleum Reserve. My colleagues, situated on the north slope of Alaska, this reserve is no pipe dream like ANWR -- which is a bumper sticker approach of our energy woes."

Rahall said the reserve contains 23 million acres, embracing some 10.6 billion barrels of recoverable oil.

Under the plan advanced by Democrats, oil companies would be encouraged to take part in a more active Interior Department leasing agenda at the reserve, just west of the forbidden zone known as the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve.

The Democrat plan came under immediate fire from Republicans.

One of them, Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said the approach to "unlock" the reserve is as logical as "passing a bill ordering the sun to rise," since the lease policy already is law.

And Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, called it "a feeble attempt" to hoodwink Americans into thinking Democrats support more oil drilling.

"This bill is a sham," he said, accusing Democrats of trying to slow energy production in the reserve.

"It will not produce one drop of American-made oil or natural gas. In fact, there is more drilling in my dentist's office than in this bill."

Rahall said 35 trillion cubic feet of natural gas has been "stranded" in the absence of an Alaskan pipeline, while some 68 million acres of federal land, onshore and offshore in the outer continental shelf, aren't being tapped.

"I say, drill it, drill it," the 3rd District congressman said.

Rahall said the Democrat measure would create good-paying jobs to build pipelines and ban the exportation of Alaskan oil so that it is used directly for American consumption.

Using his time to plug again for coals-to-liquids technology, Rahall said the nation needs to drill where oil is located, rather than wait another two decades in ANWR.

"The 'use-it-or-lose it' provisions require the diligent development of federal oil and gas leases during their primary term -- normally 10 years," he said.

"And what that means is that during that period we are requesting the oil companies to do something with these leases. To explore for energy. If a discovery is made, to apply for drilling permits. I understand drilling. I am from West Virginia, for the love of God. We are no 'not in my back yard' state. We do not shirk from our contributions to the nation's need for energy. We have mining, and we have drilling."

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