Interior pick open to talks on oil cash for states

The White House nominee for the Interior Department’s No. 2 slot told a pair of Senate lawmakers that he’s open to discussion about proposals that would share more offshore oil-and-gas royalties with coastal states.

“I know this is an issue that you care deeply about and, if confirmed, I commit to meeting with you in an effort to find any common ground that may exist and to work toward a path forward,” Michael Connor, the nominee to be Interior’s deputy secretary, told Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska.).

The pledge arrives in written responses to questions from lawmakers including Murkowski, the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and committee member Landrieu.

Interior has slammed their bill to accelerate and expand oil-and-gas revenue sharing for Gulf of Mexico states that was first created in a 2006 law. The Murkowski-Landrieu bill would also provide revenue sharing for development off the coast of Alaska, and other states where offshore development could be allowed in the future.

In addition, the measure provides onshore states a 50 percent share of revenue from green-energy development on federal lands within their borders.

Connor’s comment, while hedged carefully, suggests Interior might be open to discussions on a limited measure.

A senior Interior official, in highly critical comments, told the Energy Committee in July that the bill as written would cost the Treasury Department billions of dollars.

Connor cleared the Energy panel in October, and Senate Democrats’ explosive decision to remove filibusters on White House nominees could speed his approval by the full Senate.