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Public Statements

New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. I strongly support this amendment.......

I'd like to thank my cousin, Representative TOM UDALL, as well as Representative PLATTS and the rest of our colleagues who have worked so hard to push forward a renewable electricity standard. Speaker PELOSI also deserves our deep gratitude for her support and for working side by side with us during these last few weeks. We all understand the importance of this critical amendment, and I'm proud to have been a longstanding part of this great effort as it culminates in a vote today.

As demand for energy continues to grow in this country, we need to make sure that we continue to have affordable and reliable supplies. And, most importantly, as we move to more competition in the delivery of electricity, we must make sure that the environment and consumers are protected.

So it makes sense to put incentives in place to ensure that less polluting and environmentally friendly sources of energy can find their way into the marketplace. And that's what a renewable electricity standard, or RES, would help to do.

But it's not just about doing the right thing for the environment.

With almost all new electricity generation the last decade fueled by natural gas, our domestic supply cannot sustain our needs. Iran, Russia, and Qatar together hold 58 percent of the world's natural gas reserves. As demand for power continues to grow, we shouldn't be forced to rely on these unstable regions to sustain our economy, nor do we have to.

The best way to decrease our vulnerability and dependence on foreign energy sources is to diversify our energy portfolio. Half of the States in our great Union have already figured this out and have made the commitment to producing a percentage of their electricity using renewable energy. But all of our States will benefit under a national standard, which will bring natural gas costs down nationwide, create new economies of scale in manufacturing and installation, and offer greater predictability to long-term investors.

The Udall-Platts amendment requires utilities nationwide to produce 15 percent of their electricity using renewable energy sources by 2020. The amendment also allows up to 4 percent of that 15 percent requirement to be met with energy efficiency.

The amendment's definition of renewables is broad, including biomass--cellulosic organic materials; plant or algal matter from agricultural crops, crop byproducts, or landscape waste; gasified animal waste and landfill gas, or biogas; and all types of crop-based liquid fuels. It includes incremental hydropower; solar and solar water heating; wind; ocean, ocean thermal and tidal; geothermal; and distributed generation. The amendment also allows energy efficiency to make up 27 percent of a utility's targeted requirement. Every State has one or more of these resources.

The Udall-Platts amendment saves consumers billions of dollars. By reducing the cost of new clean technologies and making them more available, it will help restrain natural gas price increases by creating more competition for those fuels.

The Udall-Platts amendment will spur economic development in the form of billions of dollars in new capital investment and in new property tax revenues for local communities, and millions of dollars in new lease payments to farmers and rural landowners.

Not least, the Udall-Platts amendment will reduce air pollution from dirty fossil-fueled power plants that threaten public health and our climate.

The amendment does not burden some regions of the country at the expense of others, as the utilities would have you believe. It creates public benefits for all.

The argument that the Southeast is disadvantaged by the RES--that the Southeast has no renewable resources--ignores the plain truth. In fact, the Southeast is one of the regions of the country that will see the most benefit from this proposal. According to Department of Energy's Energy information Administration, the technology that does best under a 15 percent RES is biomass. Already, 2500 megawatts of generation come from biomass in the Southeast, and much of the waste from pulp and paper mills is not being used to generate electricity.

The Udall-Platts amendment gives States flexibility in achieving the standard.

Under the amendment, states can borrow credits against future renewables generation--for up to three years as long as they are repaid by 2020, which means the effective start date can be delayed and facilities ramped up more slowly.

The amendment gives three renewable energy credits for each kilowatt hour of power generated at on-site eligible facilities used to offset part or all of the customer's requirements. This means solar, small wind, and other distributed energy generation sources used in residential and business locations can earn triple credits.

The amendment also returns money to the States from alternative compliance payments for State weatherization programs, low-income energy assistance programs, and for encouraging the installation of additional renewables.

The amendment also lowers the initial target date for 2010 to 2.75 percent and makes the escalation to 15 percent more gradual so that utilities have more time to ramp-up renewable energy sales.

In summary, this renewable electricity standard will reduce harmful air and water pollution, provide a sustainable, secure energy supply now, and will create new investment, income and jobs in communities all over the country.

It is good for the environment, good for the economy, and good for our country. I strongly urge its adoption.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Madam Speaker, as a cosponsor of H.R. 3221 I rise in strong support of this very important legislation. It will begin the process of putting our country on a path toward energy independence, increased national security and economic growth, and addressing global warming. When combined with the legislation from the Ways and Means Committee, it will provide long-term incentives to boost production of electricity from renewable sources, including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, river currents, ocean tides, landfill gas, and trash combustion resources.

Other incentives will help expand production of homegrown fuels such as cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel and encourage more E-85 pumps to supply flex-fuel vehicles. The bill will encourage manufacturers to build more efficient appliances, help working families afford fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid vehicles, and help businesses create energy-efficient workplaces. It will encourage deployment of renewable energy by enabling electric cooperatives and public power providers to use new clean renewable energy bonds to help finance facilities to generate electricity from renewable resources. And it will help states leverage tax credit bonds to implement low-interest loan programs and grant programs to help working families purchase energy-efficient appliances, and make energy-efficient home improvements. Further, the bill will create an Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Worker Training Program to train Americans for good "green'' jobs that will be created by new renewable-energy and energy-efficiency initiatives.

I am glad the bill includes a requirement for a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), added by an amendment by my cousin Rep. TOM UDALL, Rep. TODD PLATTS, and others, including myself. This is a great victory--the first time an RES has ever passed the House of Representatives--and it means that despite the strong opposition of those who prefer the status quo, the movement for positive change has grown stronger. Implementing a national RES will benefit rural communities, save consumers money, reduce air pollution, and increase reliability and energy security.

There are many other good provisions--but I am particularly proud of parts originating in two Committees on which I serve, which include many provisions based on legislation I introduced.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE PROVISIONS

The part of the bill developed by the Committee on Science and Technology includes provisions from two of my bills that will help us mitigate and adapt to climate change, although the bill does not directly address reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

GLOBAL CHANGE RESEARCH AND DATA MANAGEMENT

Although we know that climate change is occurring, we still need economic and technical information as well as information about system responses and climate responses to design cost effective policies will achieve emissions reductions and avoid dangerous impacts of future climate change. Subtitle G, the Global Change Research and Data Management Act of 2007, will help provide this information. It will update and improve the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) to provide more user-driven research and information. The USGCRP coordinates federal climate change research and has contributed much to our understanding of climate change since its creation in 1990--but we now need to expand this information and tailor it to the needs of decisionmakers confronted with management and mitigation challenges. I would like to thank my colleague, Mr. INGLIS from South Carolina, who is an original cosponsor on the bill that this provision is based on, for his help in improving this language.

CARBON SEQUESTRATION RESEARCH

Carbon sequestration is one promising technology to help us address climate change. Coal and other fossil fuels have been and will continue to be an important energy source for our country, but coal burning power plants are also a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants. The carbon capture and storage research, development, and demonstration program authorized in this bill will help us tackle this challenge. This provision will authorize the Department of Energy to conduct two separate projects, with up to five projects for carbon capture and up to seven projects to test for large-scale carbon dioxide injection and storage. Not only will this help us develop this technology and make it more economical, it will also help us understand the implications of storing large amounts of carbon dioxide underground.

We must begin to address the climate change challenge, but we must not cause irreparable harm to our economy in the process. Both of these research provisions will help ensure that we have the technology and the information to address climate change.

NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE PROVISIONS

The part of the bill developed in the Natural Resources Committee will ensure greater accountability from companies drilling for oil and gas on federal lands by, among other things, requiring more audits to ensure American taxpayers received all royalties owed and by ensuring companies that were erroneously given royalty-free leases for drilling will pay fair royalties. This part of the bill also authorizes a nationwide assessment of geological formations capable of sequestering carbon dioxide underground and a review of the potential for carbon sequestration in ecosystems. It calls for development of a national strategy to assist wildlife populations and their habitats and provides states with new funding to assist wildlife in adapting to global warming.

It also has sections based on my bill, H.R. 1180, the "Western Waters and Farm Lands Protection Act'' regarding protection of surface owners, reclamation, and protection of water supplies.

SURFACE OWNER PROTECTION

In many parts of the country, the owner of some land's surface does not necessarily own the underlying minerals. And in Colorado and other Western States, those mineral estates often belong to the federal government while the surface estates are owned by others, including farmers and ranchers. This split-estate situation can lead to conflicts. The surface-owner provisions are intended to address this issue by establishing a system for development of federal oil and gas in split-estate situations. It requires the Interior Department to give surface owners advance notice of lease sales that would affect their lands and to notify them of subsequent events related to proposed or ongoing developments related to such leases. In addition, it requires that anyone proposing to drill for federal minerals in a split-estate situation must first try to reach an agreement with the surface owner that spells out what will be done to minimize interference with the surface owner's use and enjoyment and to provide for reclamation of affected lands and compensation for any damages. It is important to note that a surface owner ultimately could not block development of oil or gas underlying his or her lands. While I support development of energy resources where appropriate, I also believe that this must be done responsibly and in a way that demonstrates respect for private property rights. That is what this part of the bill is designed to accomplish.

RECLAMATION REQUIREMENTS AND WATER PROTECTION

Another part of the bill addresses reclamation of affected lands. It would amend the Mineral Leasing Act by adding an explicit requirement that parties that produced oil or gas (including coal-bed methane) under a federal lease must restore the affected land so it will be able to support the uses it could support before the energy development. Toward that end, this part of the bill requires development of reclamation plans and posting of reclamation bonds. The bill also requires oil and gas operators to give the protection of water a priority by requiring them to submit a plan for water management when they file for a permit to drill. It also provides that oil or gas operators who damage a water resource--by contaminating it, reducing it, or interrupting it--must remedy the damage or provide replacement water to the water users. And it specifies that water produced under a mineral lease must be dealt with in ways that comply with all federal and state requirements and includes language making clear it will not affect state water laws.

Water is a precious commodity in the arid, drought-ridden West--as important as our energy resources. We must not sacrifice our water in our zeal to develop oil and gas resources. This bill will help ensure it will be protected and reclaimed as we produce domestic energy supplies.

OIL SHALE

The bill also includes provisions I helped develop regarding future commercial-scale development of oil shale. They are intended to make it more likely that any commercial development of oil shale occurs in an orderly way that takes full advantage of the important research and development work now underway.

Under these provisions, the BLM would not be faced with an unrealistic deadline for finishing the programmatic environmental impact statement that is now being prepared, but they would still have to go ahead and finish it. Then, the BLM will have a year--not just 6 months, as under current law--to prepare commercial leasing regulations. And, instead of final regulations, these will be proposed regulations, with at least 120 days for people in Colorado--and everyone else--to review and comment on them. The new bill also calls for developing an overall strategy for sustainable and publicly acceptable large-scale development of oil shale in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, and it retains the current law's requirement for consultations with the Governors of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming before any commercial leases are issued.

I believe the environmental analysis being done by BLM will help everyone understand what will be involved in any commercial leasing program, even though it cannot and will not answer all the questions. But I believe that the timing of any oil shale development under the provisions of this bill will be a better way to proceed and more likely to yield a good result, as will the part of the bill that makes it clear that full environmental review will be required prior to issuing any specific commercial lease, which will remove doubts and lay the right foundation for future decisions.

OIL SHALE FUND

In addition, the bill includes (in a separate part) the provision that I added in the Natural Resources Committee to establish a fund to help local governments pay for infrastructure and services made necessary by future commercial oil shale development. This provision reflects my concern about what large-scale commercial development of oil shale can mean for Colorado's Western Slope and the problems it could bring to that mostly rural part of our state. Coloradans remember the seriously disruptive economic impacts on our communities from previous oil shale development efforts. I think the federal government--if it is going to promote development of this resource again--should also learn from that experience and help mitigate any potential impacts from an oil shale program. That's what this provision is designed to accomplish.

ROAN PLATEAU PROVISIONS

Finally, I must mention the section dealing with the Roan Plateau planning area, in Colorado, which Representative JOHN SALAZAR and I worked to have included. The Roan Plateau is not just another place. Nearly a century ago, it was set aside because President Wilson thought someday we would need its oil shale to fuel the Navy's ships. Of course, that didn't happen--and the area was mostly untouched until 1997, when Congress transferred it from the Energy Department to the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management, or BLM. Since then, the BLM has leased 12,000 acres for oil and gas drilling and has worked on developing a plan for the rest. The bill would not affect any of the lands that have already been leased. And it would not even affect all of the lands that are still untouched. Instead, it would affect only the Federal lands on the top of the plateau--the highest and most sensitive part of the area.

It deals only with the lands on the top of the Roan Plateau itself. That's where you find the stands of aspen and spruce trees and the headwaters of streams that support five rare, pure populations of our native cutthroat trout, in stretches above and below two of Colorado's highest waterfalls. And those lands on top are the prime places for wildlife, including herds of deer and elk. That's why they are so important to hunters and anglers--not just from the Western Slope but many visitors as well--who every year generate millions of dollars for the local economy. And that's why protecting them is supported by sportsmen and sportswomen--for example, the Colorado Chapter of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers--and such groups as Trout Unlimited as well as by many other people across Colorado--from Battlement Mesa and Basalt to Silt, Salida, and Saguache--who want to slow BLM's rush to lease every last inch of the Roan Plateau.

Neither Rep. SALAZAR nor I am against energy development. But we are for balance. There is an energy boom in Colorado, with the administration pushing BLM to lease as much and as fast as possible, although thousands of acres already under lease remain undeveloped. As we develop the energy we need, we should remember that places like the Roan Plateau are important not just for their riches of oil and natural gas but also for riches in the form of streams, trees and other plants, and the fish and wildlife populations that depend on them for habitat. We need to assure that the energy ``boom'' does not mean a ``bust'' for those values--for from that bust there may be no recovery. That is the rationale for the Roan Plateau section of this bill. It does two things. First, it requires that each lease of federal land on the top of the Roan Plateau have a ``no surface occupancy'' stipulation. That means the oil, gas, or other minerals must be accessed from another location through directional drilling--for example, from non-federal lands or lands elsewhere in the Roan Plateau planning area.

Second, this part of the bill requires the Treasury Department to report how much has been collected in royalties from already-leased lands in the Roan Plateau planning area, and requires the Interior Department to tell us how much work remains to be done to clean up contaminated areas so as to recoup the funds the federal government spent for infrastructure in the lands before they were transferred to the Interior Department. To understand the reason for requiring these reports, remember the terms under which the lands were transferred from the Department of Energy. To pay for needed cleanup work and to recover infrastructure costs, the transfer legislation says the normal sharing of mineral royalties with the relevant State will not start until it is certified to Congress that the federal government has received enough to cover (1) The cost of all needed environmental restoration, waste management, and environmental compliance activities, (2) the costs incurred to install wells, gathering lines, and related equipment and (3) any other costs incurred by the United States on the lands. The required reports will provide Congress with an update of the amount of royalties that have been collected and how much work remains to be done. With that information, we will have a better idea of whether the time has come to revisit the transfer act with an eye to allowing the State of Colorado to start receiving part of the royalties from mineral leases in the area.

Madam Speaker, I have been working for several years to achieve passage of the surface-owner, reclamation, and water-protection provisions of this bill. And Representative SALAZAR and I have worked to protect the most sensitive part of the Roan Plateau. These provisions help provide for balance in energy development in Colorado and across the West and were developed through listening to the concerns of landowners, water users and communities. I strongly urge their approval--along with the rest of this excellent legislation--by the House.


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