Oil-and-gas lobby sees 'early breakthrough' for offshore royalty bill

Some senators want to push a bill that would give royalties to Gulf states for oil and gas drilled off their shores.

New Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has said he wants to work on a revenue-sharing bill. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the committee’s ranking member, is working on language for such legislation.

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Gerard said Wyden appeared more conducive to working on the issue compared with former committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).

“As representing two coastal states, they’ll have a little different view of that than where Sen. Bingaman was,” Gerard said of Wyden and Murkowski.

Bingaman proved a roadblock to an offshore royalty bill Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) floated last Congress.

Landrieu’s bill, which never made it out of committee, would have removed a $500 million cap on royalties awarded to Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Those states also could have begun collecting the funds in 2015, rather than 2017.

Bingaman argued all those royalties should go to the federal government, rather than be divvied up among the four Gulf states.

With Wyden on board, an offshore royalty bill might also include provisions for renewable energy projects, such as wind. That could appease the committee’s coastal Democrats, and the Obama administration has already begun leasing federal offshore wind projects on the East Coast.

Landrieu included some renewable energy language at the last minute to an offshore royalty bill last Congress. Her staff indicated Wyden agreed with the direction, but that it required more work.