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Practical Priorities for the Next Secretary of the Interior

By Scott McKee

Today, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a confirmation hearing for Sally Jewell, secretary appointee for the Department of the Interior. Jewell received many questions about the energy priorities of the department, which controls about one-fifth of the U.S. landmass and nearly all of its oceans.

In its February 2013 report, America’s Energy Resurgence: Sustaining Success, Confronting Challenges, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) Energy Project put forward an overarching strategic goal: The U.S. energy system should provide affordable, secure, and reliable supplies of energy and strive for continuous improvement in environmental performance.

To achieve this goal, the 20-member Energy Board developed a series of four objectives and over 50 specific policy recommendations, many of which are related to efforts of the Department of the Interior:

  • Congress should expand access to oil and gas exploration and production in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, and the Department of the Interior should accelerate the timetable for leasing areas off the coasts of the Mid- and South Atlantic states?provided that the areas involved have been reviewed and approved based on a rigorous coastal and marine spatial planning process. Stakeholders should work together to identify substantial new acreage in the Eastern Gulf that could be opened to exploration and production in concert with other, ongoing activities, and request that Congress remove the moratorium in these areas; in both the Eastern Gulf and the Atlantic region, we recommend an open, collaborative and science-based planning approach, and we recommend that in conjunction with such planning processes, the Department of the Interior consider reopening its current five-year plan to include at least one lease sale in the Atlantic.
  • Working with all stakeholders, Congress and the Department of the Interior should improve permitting and leasing for onshore oil and gas production on federal and tribal lands by (1) assuring adequate resources; (2) providing consistent requirements; (3) creating a new commission to identify options for regulatory reforms; (4) creating more litigation transparency; and (5) improving the collection and dissemination of statistics for energy projects on federal lands.
  • Federal and state regulators should implement the environmental performance recommendations for shale resource development recently issued by the Natural Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board and the National Petroleum Council.
  • The Department of the Interior and other federal agencies should continue to fully fund and implement reforms initiated over the past few years for approving renewable energy projects on federal lands as expeditiously as possible.

Interested in reading BPC’s Strategic Energy Policy Initiative report? Click here to read America’s Energy Resurgence: Sustaining Success, Confronting Challenges.

2013-03-07 00:00:00

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