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Thursday, April 14, 2005

What the committee voted on...

I don't have detail on how the vote shook out, but this is what the House Resources Committee voted on yesterday: H.R. 39, the Domestic Energy Security Act of 2005. I also don't know if the bill was amended, since the Congressional record hasn't been updated yet, but the link takes you to the original bill as proposed by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.

It appears to be a mirror image of H.R. 4, the ANWR drilling bill adopted by the House and rejected by the Senate in 2001. In short, it would open up the coastal plain ("1002 Area") to oil leasing, totalling some 1.5 million acres. Troubling highlights of H.R. 39, on first blush:

-- Allows drilling under a previous environmental impact statement from 1987. This is questionable, since if they also require the "best commercially available" drilling technology, shouldn't that new technology be considered in a new EIS?

-- Allow no more than 45,000 acres to be designated as "special areas" closed to drilling. In other words, if we later find that more land needs to be set aside to protect caribou or muskoxen or waterfowl ponds, the act forbids it.

-- Lease a minimum of 200,000 acres in the first sale. Much more could be leased later.

-- Limits exploration activities to the period between Nov. 1 and May 1 each year, when ice roads can be used. But the Secretary of Interior can make exceptions, so exploration can really occur at any time.

-- Strict limits on judicial review. In other words, to limit challenges by critics.

There's a lot more in there, but I'll leave you with that for now.

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