Bingaman goes back to the future with broad drilling safety, energy bills

It also lengthens the time for regulators to review offshore oil-and-gas exploration plans — an extension the Obama administration has been seeking from Congress.

But plenty has happened since the energy panel approved the plan last summer, including an array of safety reforms and restructuring of drilling oversight that the Interior Department has undertaken under its existing powers, and the release of a major report in January by the presidential commission that probed the BP spill.

Bingaman, in a statement, called the Outer Continental Shelf Reform Act of 2011 a starting point for ensuring a robust offshore safety regime that is a “model for the world.”

“In the intervening time since the committee's action, there have been developments and new information that may indicate the need to update or change some parts of the bill. But, as we begin to work on this issue again in the committee, I believe that it is sensible to start with last year's bill. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address these important issues,” Bingaman said in a statement in the Congressional Record.

Bingaman recently said he might seek to steer the bill through committee before the Memorial Day recess. But Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), the top Republican on the energy panel, is withholding support for the measure for now.

Bingaman introduced a separate bill Monday that plucks a few oil-and-gas provisions from a massive, multi-issue energy bill the committee approved with a few GOP votes in 2009.

The Oil and Gas Facilitation Act of 2011 that Bingaman introduced Monday includes an updated survey of oil and natural gas resources beneath federal waters. It would also establish a new lease and permit processing office for offshore regions in Alaska, where lawmakers have complained about bureaucratic hurdles to development.

Elsewhere, the bill would nix an expansion of royalty waivers — called royalty relief — for offshore oil-and-gas production that was included in a sweeping 2005 energy law.

Another provision would boost to $30 billion the level of federal loan guarantees available for the long-planned — and long-delayed — pipeline to carry Alaskan natural gas to markets in the lower 48 states.

Both bills are available here.

More in E2-Wire

Five threats to the EPA’s climate rule

Read more »