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Summary of Energy Hearings: June 2001



Hearing on Nuclear Energy and Hydroelectric Relicensing
House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality
June 27, 2001

The Bottom Line
On June 27th, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality held a hearing on relicensing nuclear and hydroelectric energy plants.  The witnesses -- representing the nuclear and hydroelectric industry and regulatory commissions -- addressed the issues of relicensing nuclear plants, improving the entire regulatory process, renewing the Price-Anderson Act (PAA), and relicensing hydroelectric plants.  Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) expressed the importance of carefully exploring the issues surrounding nuclear energy and the possible expansion of the nuclear industry.  He, along with other committee members, stressed the importance of a strong, comprehensive commission to regulate the activities of power plants.  Relicensing hydroelectric power plants (along with nuclear energy) has gained support because of its increasing potential as a clean energy source.

Hearing Summary
PANEL 1:
The first panel to testify on nuclear energy relicensing consisted of: Richard A. Meserve, Chairman, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC); and William D. Magwood, Director, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology.

Meserve explained the role of the NRC is "to ensure the safe application of nuclear technology if society elects to pursue the nuclear energy option."  While the plants must be relicensed by the commission in a lengthy process, Meserve assured the committee that the NRC is well staffed and qualified to evaluate plants.  He emphasized the need to maintain a strong nuclear research program and to support reauthorizating the Price-Anderson Act (PAA).

Magwood also expressed overwhelming support for the PAA as necessary to provide public protection and to encourage the growth of the nuclear industry.  He proposed recommendations to continue DOE indemnification "without substantial change."  He also discussed the often misleading and exaggerated fears of nuclear energy.  These pressing issues are the main hurdle the nuclear industry faces in generating public support.

During the questioning of the panel, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) expresses concerns that the PAA removes all liability and responsibility from the plant owner in the event of an accident in all cases, even when the accidents are the direct result of negligence.  He strongly objects to the PAA and feels that industry, not government, should provide nuclear energy insurance.

PANEL 2:
The second panel to discuss nuclear energy included: Marvin Fertel, Senior VIce President of Business Operations, Nuclear Energy Institute, Jack Skolds, Chief Operating Officer, Exelon Nuclear; George Davis, Director of Government Programs Nuclear Systems, Westinghouse Electric Company; Laurence L. Parme, General Atomics; Dr. E. Allen Womack, President, BWX Technology, Inc., on behalf of Energy Contractors Price Anderson Group; John Quattrocchi, Senior Vice President of Underwriting, American Nuclear Insurers; and Anna Aurilio, Legislative Director, U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

The panelists addressed the issues of relicensing nuclear plants, improving the entire regulatory process, and renewing the PAA.  Most of the witnesses expressed strong support for relicensing the current nuclear plants and establishing the groundwork for more plants to be built -- such as renewing the PAA to insure the safety and clean up in the event of a nuclear accident.

Fertel discussed the key role nuclear energy will continue to play as the demand for energy increases.  Because of this projected increase, it will be necessary to develop new reactor designs and technology.  Parme explained about how new reactor designs will result in higher efficiency and safety levels.  He feels the regulatory process needs to be a amended to fairly and effectively evaluate new technology.  Skolds expressed similar concerns, then suggested changes that would respond better to the growing nuclear industry and the evolving types of reactors.  These statements were echoed by other members of the panel.

Aurilio was the only witness to oppose the reauthorization of the PAA.  Despite her strong opposition to nuclear energy on the grounds of it being "unsafe, unreliable and uneconomic," Aurilio provided recommendations to reform the nuclear policy.  She feels a reformed policy is necessary to protect the public and should include a full compensation for accident victims, and should focus on an increase in safety and accountability in the case of negligence.

PANEL 3:
The third panel was Curtis L. Hebert, Jr., Chairman, Office of General Counsel, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  He was accompanied by: J. Mark Robinson, Director, Office of Energy Projects; and Kristina Nygaard, Associate Counsel for Energy Projects at FERC.

PANEL 4:
The final panel included: Barry T. Hill, Director, National Resources and Environment, Government Accounting Office, accompanied by Charles S. Cotton, Assistant Director and Erin Barlow, Senior Analysis; John Prescott, Vice President of Generation, Idaho Power Company; S. Elizabeth Birnbaum, Director of Government Affairs, American Rivers; and Ronald Shems, Attorney, Shems, Dunkiel PLLC, on behalf of that Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.

The third and fourth panel discussions focused on hydropower relicensing.  At the center of the ongoing debate is how to balance environmental concerns of hydropower with its economic viability.  On May 8th, FERC released a congressionally mandated report that describes the commission's hydroelectric licensing policies, procedures, and regulations.  At this hearing,  Mr. Hebert, Jr. presented testimony regarding the legislative recommendations in this report.  Most notable was a recommendation to "establish one-stop shopping at the Commission for all federal authorizations."  If implemented, this would give FERC the authority "to reject or modify" regulations enacted by other agencies "based on inconsistency with the Commission's overall public interest determination."  Environmental groups feel that this would jeopardize the "equal consideration" statute of the Federal Power Act that forces FERC to consider both power and non-power (fish and wildlife, recreation) benefits of a river.  Mr. Prescott, of Idaho Power, did not critique the FERC report directly, but instead made a more general argument for making sure energy priorities are not sacrificed for natural resources.  Testimony from the GAO suggests that FERC and Congress need more data to reach informed decisions about process reforms.

- MMW & CLE


Hearing to examine certain provisions relating to S.472, S.597, and S.388
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
June 26, 2001

The Bottom Line
On June 26th, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to receive testimony on proposed amendments to the Price-Anderson Act and nuclear energy production and efficiency incentives.  The Price-Anderson Act (PAA), "provides a system of indemnification for legal liability resulting from a nuclear incident in connection with contractual activity for DOE."  The introduced bills -- S.388, S.472 and S.597 -- deal with reauthorizing the PAA, set to expire next year.  The National Energy Security Act of 2001 (S.388), introduced by Senator Frank Murkowski (R-AK), authorizes higher spending for certain nuclear research and development (R&D) programs, provides incentives to boost production, and extends the PAA.  The Nuclear Energy Supply Assurance Act of 2001(S.472), introduced by Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), not only authorizes similar programs as S.388 but also modifies the nuclear licensing requirement and procedures.

Hearing Summary
The witnesses who testified on the reauthorization of the PAA and nuclear energy production and efficiency incentives included: Eric Fygi, Deputy General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE); Joseph Gray, Associate General Counsel for Licensing and Regulation for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; John Bradburne, President and Chief Executive Officer of Fluor Fernald; Marvin Fertel, Senior Vice President of Business Operations for Nuclear Energy Institute; John Quattrocchi, Senior Vice President for Underwriting for American Nuclear Insurers; and Erich Pica, Economic Policy Analyst for Friends of the Earth.

The panel members were asked to provided recommendations for the authorization of the PAA.  Fygi expressed the DOE's strong support for renewing PAA, noting its importance as a public protection measure that should be continued without any substantial changes.  Gray stated the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) supports a prompt reauthorization of the act with minor revisions.  On the issue of including production and efficiency incentives, Gray expressed some concerns that short-term incentives and goals might conflict with a long-term liability focus.  Therefore, long-term incentives would be better to encourage the growth of the nuclear market.

Bradburne testified support for the PAA and emphasized the importance of extending it prior to its expiration, since a break in the program could be serious and costly.  He explained that without the PAA there is little incentive for contractors to get involved with government nuclear project. It provides protection for the public in the event of a nuclear plant accident.  Fertel also supports legislation to renew the act indefinitely, which he describes as comprehensive and effective support for nuclear plant project that ensures funds to cover claims in an accident.  Quattrocchi outlined the success of the PAA during the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, and express the opinion that the act should be extended to provide liability protection to the nuclear industry and simulate more private nuclear development.

Pica was the only witness to oppose the reauthorization of the PAA.  While he strongly opposes nuclear energy on the grounds of it being "unsafe, unreliable and uneconomical," Pica provided recommendations to reform the nuclear policy.  He feels a new/reformed policy is necessary to protect the public and should include a full compensation for accident victims, as well as have a stronger focus on safety and accountability in the case of negligence.

The committee members present appeared to support the reauthorization of the act.  The question and answer period primarily focused on clarifying the licensing of plants and defining an appropriate length for extension (10 yr. to indefinitely).  The panel was also asked to comment on the issue of nuclear waste.

- MMW


Hearing on the National Energy Policy: Conservation and Energy Efficiency
House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality
June 22, 2001

The Bottom Line
On June 22nd, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality held a hearing to discuss conservation and energy efficiency in regards to the National Energy Policy (NEP).  While varying in their degree of support for energy efficiency and conservation regulatory programs, most committee members agree decreasing demand plays a key role in developing a balanced energy policy.  Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) emphasized the need for increased energy efficiency, especially in government buildings because "the federal government should take the lead."  Witnesses testified about current and developing government and industry energy efficiency programs.

Hearing Summary
PANEL 1:
The first panel on energy efficiency included: David Garman, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), U.S. Department of Energy; and Frederick H. Hoover, Jr., Director, Maryland Energy Administration, on behalf of the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO).

Garman testified on the conservation and energy efficiency recommendations included in the NEP and then outlined the plans of the EERE to continue technology research, development, demonstration and deployment activities to reach those goals.  He reviewed the progress and success of EERE programs to increase energy efficiency in the transportation, industrial, building and federal facilities sectors.  He also noted the EERE strong support for public/private partnerships in energy efficiency programs.  The EERE is currently evaluating all programs to provide more information to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Congress in developing, "a balanced energy technology research and development (R&D) portfolio that delivers short-term, intermediate, and long-term energy benefits."

Hoover explained that NASEO strongly supports a balanced energy policy with public and private partnership programs to increase energy efficiency.

Garman received the majority of the questions from the committee.  Several Democrat members asked for explanations and reasoning behind the Bush administration's repeal of regulations to increase air conditioner efficiency put on the books by the Clinton administration.

PANEL 2:
The second panel consisted of Steven Nadel, Executive Director for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy; Mark Wagner, Director for Johnson Controls, Inc; Dr. Malcolm O'Hagan, President for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association; Josephine Cooper, President for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers; David Nemtzow, President for the Alliance to Save Energy; Gary Swofford, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer-Delivery for Puget Sound Energy; Mark Rogers, Chief Executive Officer for SmartSynch, Inc.; Dr. Dean Peterson, Center Leader for the Material Science Technology-Superconductivity Technology Center, Los Alamos National Laboratories; Patricio Silva, Project Attorney for the National Resources Defense Council; and Jordan Clark, President for the United Homeowners Association.

The witnesses provided testimony on how energy efficiency is improving in industry and consumer usage, from automobiles to high-tech monitoring systems of electricity consumed in personal homes and business.  One important distinction several of the witnesses made is that energy efficiency is the preferable term to mean ways to stretch the available energy and do more with less.  More companies and groups are moving away from promoting "conservation," because the term carried the more negative connotation of doing without or having to make huge sacrifices.

Other witnesses discussed promoting a market-based solution for energy efficiency by providing tax credits, loans and partnerships to switch to using the low-energy technologies including efficient or low-emission automobiles.  With increased market demand, these technologies will be better integrated into the market.  For example, Cooper and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers feel raising CAFE standards would be bad for the environment since the available supply would be controlled, thus limiting consumer choices.  High-efficiency and hybrid cars should be integrated into the market by increasing incentives, such as tax credits, to encourage buying the new technology.

Several panelists also outlined how improved efficiency programs would be economically beneficial.  Because people will be paying less on their energy bills, they will have more money to spend.  Many energy-efficient technologies are already developed or being developed.  Currently many of these higher efficiency technologies are expensive.  As people move toward more energy-efficient lifestyles to save on energy, the price of new "better" technology will be driven down by demand increases.

- MMW


Hearing on the National Energy Policy--Report of
the National Energy Policy Development Group: Administration View
House Science Committee
June 21, 2001

The Bottom Line
Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham presented testimony on President Bush's National Energy Policy.  Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) stated the plan was broadly balanced, "but specific recommendations were often disconcerting and biased toward production."  Additionally there was concern that the administration's budget provided little money for research and development (R&D) despite talk in the energy report about how valuable R&D is to our national energy policy.  Secretary Abraham defended this discrepancy by remarking that the president's budget was submitted before the National Energy Plan (NEP) was complete, and that the president may still make further budget recommendations.  In the meantime, Boehlert has promised to authorize more funding through the Science Committee's energy legislation.  Other committee members asked questions about air-conditioning efficiency standards, clean-coal technologies, renewable fuels, nuclear power, and new oil drilling in U.S. coastal waters.

Hearing Summary
In opening remarks, Chairman Boehlert emphasized the lack of funding for energy research but was glad to see energy policy addressed by the Administration.   He also mentioned that NEP statements regarding Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards were "confusing" and should be clarified.  Ranking Member Ralph Hall (D-TX) concurred about the poor funding for energy research.  He also stated his strong support for developing fossil fuel resources and improving clean-coal technology.

Secretary Abraham said early in his testimony that, "[Work in science] will play a major role in meeting today's energy challenges."  He provided an overview of the president's energy plan, claiming that it balances increased supplies of energy with improved conservation and efficiency.  Abraham then said that twenty of the recommendations contained in the NEP required legislative action, and other areas would need Congress' cooperation in implementing.  Some of the more controversial  recommendations made in the NEP include drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), building 1,300 to 1,900 new power plants, and focusing more research efforts on fossil fuel technologies than alternative energy sources.

During Q & A, committee members regularly asked why the NEP recommends cutting energy research funding when the U.S. is facing an energy crisis.  Abraham responded that the president's budget was released before the NEP report.  Also, the Department of Energy is waiting for an internal review to be completed in July before it recommends any changes to the President.  Other topics for discussion were nuclear power, coastal drilling in the Southeastern U.S. and renewable sources of energy.

-CLE


Hearing on the the President's National Energy Policy: Hydrogen and
Nuclear Energy Research and Development Legislation
House Science Subcommittee on Energy
June 14, 2001

The Bottom Line
On June 14th, the House Science Subcommittee on Energy held the second of two hearings to discuss the President's National Energy Policy.  This hearing addressed hydrogen and nuclear energy research and development (R&D) legislation introduced by committee members.  The purpose of the hearing was to receive testimony on reintroducing and extending legislation for hydrogen and nuclear energy R&D as part of the recommendations put forth by the National Energy Policy Development (NEPD) Group.  Chairman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) expressed his overwhelming support for nuclear power as a safe and reliable energy source and strongly backs nuclear energy R&D legislation.  Other members, including Ranking Member Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) noted serious concerns with nuclear power.  The committee showed support for hydrogen energy as a potential clean energy source.  However, further R&D is needed to lower the costs, transportation, and storage of hydrogen for it to be a viable energy source.

Hearing Summary
The panel on hydrogen energy R&D and legislation included: David Garman, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy; Dr. H. Hubbard, Chair, Committee on Programmatic Review of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Power Technologies, National Research Council; Arthur Katsaros, Group Vice President-Engineered Systems and Development, Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.; David Haberman, Chairman, DCH Technology, Inc.; and Dr. Peter Lehman, Director, Schatz Energy Research Center.

While hydrogen energy is not a short-term fix to the energy issues, the witnesses presented it as a potential long-term option.  Hydrogen energy technology converts hydrogen into energy with the by-product of steam (water).  Hydrogen technology R&D support in the past has come from both government and industry programs.  Currently the major problems with hydrogen is the high costs and difficulty associated with storing and transporting liquid and gaseous hydrogen gas.

The panel emphasized the need to continue joint government and industry support of hydrogen R&D to develop it as a cost efficient future energy source, and expressed strong support for the reauthorization of the hydrogen R&D legislation.  The proposed Robert S. Walker and George E. Brown, Jr. Hydrogen Energy Act of 2001, a reauthorization of the Spark M. Matsunaga Hydrogen Research, Development, and Demonstration Act of 1990, will authorize funding to support hydrogen R&D and demonstration projects.

The committee members expressed support for hydrogen as a possible future energy source; however, some voiced concerns about the proposed budget cuts to renewable energy R&D programs.  Garman pointed out that the proposed budget came out before the National Energy Policy (NEP) was complete and now that the NEP recommendations are available, the budget policies should be reviewed.

Prior to the second panel, Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) testified on provisions contained in their nuclear energy R&D legislation.  H.R. 1679, Electricity Supply Assurance Act of 200, introduced by Graham, "ensure[s] that nuclear energy continues to contribute to the supply of electricity in the Unites States," by investing in nuclear science R&D and education.  H.R. 2126, Department of Energy Nuclear Science and Engineering Act, introduced by Biggert, encourages students to become nuclear scientists by providing financial support to University nuclear science programs.  Biggert explained "this legislation is important to universities and national security," and emphasized the fact the U.S. is a leader in nuclear research and therefore must continue to educate and encourage students to pursue nuclear science as a field of study.

The second panel on nuclear energy R&D legislation consisted of William D. Magwood, IV, Director, Office of Nuclear Energy, Science, and Technology, DOE; Joe Colvin, President, Nuclear Energy Institute; John Kotek, Argonne National Laboratory-West and Co-Chair, Public Policy Committee, American Nuclear Society; and Anna Aurilio, Legislative Director, U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

The witnesses expressed varying views on the issue of nuclear energy and support of the introduced nuclear energy R&D legislation.  Magwood testified, "nuclear energy is a key element of our energy portfolio . . . [and] remains the largest source of emission-free electricity in the United States and for the first time in over a decade, it surpassed coal-fired plants as the leader in low-cost energy production."  Colvin described nuclear energy as the only expandable energy resource that can provide large amounts of electricity with a minimal threat to the environment, and supports legislation to improve the science of nuclear energy.  Kotek gave testimony to clarify the issues and risks associated with nuclear energy in hopes to alleviate unfounded or exaggerated concerns.

Aurilio's objection to the nuclear energy R&D legislation outlined several problems with expanding nuclear energy.  Nuclear plants are very expensive to build and maintain.  She argues, "H.R. 1679 will cost taxpayers at least $357.2 million in unjustified and dangerous nuclear programs for FY2002."  In addition more nuclear plants will create large amounts of nuclear waste with no approved depository.  She explained that even if Yucca Mountain was approved as a geological waste repository, it would not be large enough to hold all the new waste created by the increased number of nuclear plants proposed in the NEP.

Despite Aurilio's arguments, Bartlett continued to express his strong support for nuclear energy and the introduced legislation.  Ranking Member Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), who does not support nuclear energy, addressed the panel about nuclear waste concerns and the potential for environmental hazardous accidents.

- MMW


Hearing on the President's National Energy Policy: Clean Coal
Technology and Oil and Gas Research and Development
House Science Subcommittee on Energy
June 12, 2001

The Bottom Line
On Tuesday, May 12th, the House Science Subcommittee on Energy held the first of two hearings on the President's National Energy Policy.  This hearing addressed clean coal technologies along with oil and gas research and development (R&D).  The purpose of the hearing was to understand the technology and R&D efforts in fossil fuels as part of the congressional analysis of the President's National Energy Policy.  Oil and gas R&D focuses on improving recovery efficiency of proposed and existing wells.  There was also a strong emphasis in improving efficiency and conservation measures and the importance of developing a balanced energy plan.

Hearing Summary
Chairman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) gave an overview of the current state of the domestic fossil fuel reserves.  Fossil fuels are the dominant energy sources used by the U.S economy.  Increasing demands for energy reserves require that all available sources and technology must be employed to ensure a stable and environmentally conscience energy supply.  The most abundant fossil energy source is coal, and predictions indicate a higher usage of this resource in the future.  Therefore, clean coal technologies are necessary to develop production plans that address emission and environmental controls.

The witnesses on clean coal technology panel included: Robert S. Kripowicz (pdf format), Acting Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy; Ben Yamagata, Executive Director of the Coal Utilization Research Council (CURC); James E. Wells, Director of Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. General Accounting Office; Katherine Abend, Global Warming Associate and the U.S. PIRG; and John S. Mead, Director of the Coal Research Center at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

The panel discussion focused on the progress of clean coal technology projects that have been funded by the Department of Energy, state governments, and industry.  Supporters of these programs indicate new technology will substantially reduce pollution, increase coal burning efficiency, and improve cost effectiveness in the next 10 to 15 years.  Cleaner coal technologies will allow for the abundant domestic coal resources to be used to produce much of the projected energy demand with lower impacts on the environment.

Abend noted several objections and concerns to clean coal projects. She emphasized the need for stricter coal emissions and air quality regulations, because even cleaner coal technologies produce dirty pollutants such as NOx, particulate, mercury, and greenhouse gases such as CO2 into the air.  Abend objects to federal subsidized clean coal programs and instead recommends R&D focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy resources.  Finally, Abend commented on the mismanagement of many of the clean coal projects, further supporting her proposal to reject clean coal projects that pose health and environmental threats.

The witnesses on the panel to discuss oil and gas R&D included: Virginia B. Lazenby, Chairman and CEO of Bretagne, GP, on behalf of the Independent Petroleum Association of America; Paul Cuneo, Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Equiva Services, LLC; Dr. Craig W. Van Kirk, Professor of Petroleum Engineering and Head of the Department of Petroleum Engineering at Colorado School of Mines; Dr. Alan R. Huffman, Manager of Conoco's Seismic Imaging Technology Center; and Robert S. Kripowicz (from panel I).

The oil and gas R&D efforts focuses on improving exploration technology, increasing production efficiency, and reducing impacts on the environment.  Cuneo explained new technologies used have reduced emission levels from refineries, improved pipelines and fuel cells and advanced vehicle technology.  Van Kirk reported on innovative technologies for locating more oil and gas, developing resources found in challenging environments, improving the recovery form known oil and gas reservoir, and conducting safer, more efficient operations.  Finally, Huffman proposed a plan for the creation of a United States Energy Center (USCE), a joint government and industry committee to "work toward solutions for a stable and secure energy supply for the United States while improving safety and enhancing environmental protection."

Bartlett was extremely supportive of the USCE idea to address the energy issues and continued to remind the panel and committee members of his strong support for conservation and efficiency as a key part of a balanced energy policy.  Other issues raised by the committee were concerns over the R&D cuts in the president's proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2002.  The panel responded that the budget allows for energy efficiency tax credit.  They were confident that with the National Energy Policy now complete fossil energy R&D will receive the necessary support.

- MMW


Oversight Hearing on the National Energy Policy
House Resources Committee
June 6, 2001

The Bottom Line
On June 6, 2001, the House Resources Committee held an oversight hearing to discuss the National Energy Policy with Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton.  Chairman James Hansen (R-UT) opened the hearing by emphasizing the importance of addressing the National Energy Policy and devising a plan to deal with current and future energy issues.  He stated that with the demand for energy increasing at an enormous rate, it is no longer realistic to deny current and future energy problems or to believe we can conserve our way out of them.  Since the US economy is based on fossil fuel energy, further exploration our petroleum resources is necessary to increase the domestic energy supply and establish an energy policy to deal with the current and future energy demands.  The hearing was well attended by the committee members.

Hearing Summary
Gale Norton, Secretary of the Interior, was asked to provide testimony and discuss the National Energy Policy with the committee.  Secretary Norton opened by emphasizing the National Energy Policy's overall goal of developing a secure energy supply while protecting the environment.  Of immediate concern is the increasing gap between domestic supply and demand for oil and natural gas over the next decade.  Many potential reservoirs are located on federal land, both on- and offshore, and utilizing these reserves is a necessity in dealing with the ever-growing energy deficit (increasing demand with decreasing supplies) and easing some of the U.S. dependency on foreign oil.

In following the basic strategy to increase the domestic energy supply, the National Energy Policy - presses for the exploration of reserves on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and the Alaskan North Slope, including the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and Arctic Outer Continental Shelf.  For each of these areas, Norton reviewed the estimated expected recoverable oil and gas reserves as well as addressing the environmental impact of drilling in these areas.  She argued that with advances in technology, exploratory work and drilling projects in these areas are possible with few predicted long-term ecological effects.  Technological advances will also enhance the efficiency and amount of recoverable oil and gas out of current reserves.

The National Energy Policy supports an increase in coal mining activities, since coal is one of the most abundant energy resource in the United States.  The use of renewable and alternative energy supplies, such as wind, hydropower, biomass, solar, and geothermal, are also necessary to meet the growing supply needs, and bonuses from ANWR exploration would go to fund research into these alternative energy resources.

The committee addressed Secretary Norton with support, issues and concerns with the policy.  Several Democratic representatives expressed concerns about the need to focus on conservation and more efficient use of energy to lower energy demand, not just increase production to fill the demand.  Offshore drilling regulations and the Department of Interior's stance on lifting the moratorium were also mentioned by several Democrats.  The general view of the Republican representatives was one of support for ANWR and other exploratory projects that address the nation's energy demands, stating that to believe the U.S. can conserve its way out of this energy crisis as unrealistic.

- MMW

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Contributed by Spring 2001 AAPG/AGI Geoscience Policy Intern Mary H. Patterson and Spring 2001 AGI/AIPG Geoscience Policy Interns Michelle Williams, Caetie Ofiesh, and Chris Eisinger.

Posted: March 12, 2001; Last updated August 1, 2001


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