Hatch looks to free up House-passed energy bills in Senate

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) on Wednesday is expected to introduce an omnibus energy/federal land use bill combining several bills that have passed the House over the last year but have stalled in the Senate due to Democratic opposition. These include bills calling for expedited consideration of permits to drill in the Gulf of Mexico and ending what Republicans say is a moratorium on new offshore drilling, as well as bills limiting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) said Hatch's bill would be titled the West Act, and would combine all of these bills, which Republicans say would expand energy production, reduce federal authority over government-owned lands in the western part of the country and create jobs.

"He's going to lump them together and push them out," Pearce said Tuesday evening on the House floor. A spokeswoman for Hatch confirmed late Tuesday that Hatch would likely introduce the bill on Wednesday.

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According to Pearce, Hatch's bill would include language found in three energy bills the House passed in May 2011. These are the Putting the Gulf of Mexico Back to Work act (H.R. 1229), the Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act (H.R. 1230), and the Reversing President Obama's Offshore Moratorium Act (H.R. 1231).

Also included will be the Jobs and Energy Permitting Act (H.R. 2021), which passed last June. That bill would make it easier for drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf to comply with the Clean Air Act.

Hatch's bill is also expected to include several House-passed bills that would ease federal rules on land use. One is the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act (H.R. 1837), which would ease Endangered Species Act rules that diverted water away from certain parts of California to protect the delta smelt.

Others are the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act (H.R. 872), which eases Clean Water Act rules, the Farm Dust Prevention Act (H.R. 1633), which would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating farm dust, and the Energy Tax Prevention Act (H.R. 910), which would prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

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