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Holt Supports Efforts to Make America More Energy Independent


Location: Washington, DC


U.S. Rep Rush Holt last night supported legislation that would help make America more energy independent and provide relief to families struggling with rising gas prices. Holt supported H.R. 6251, the "Responsible Federal Oil and Gas Lease Act" - or "Use it or Lose it" legislation - which would force oil companies to produce oil and gas, or diligently develop, the 68 million acres of public land they already have leased. The bill failed to receive the two-thirds needed for passage. Holt also supported the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act of 2008, H.R. 6052, which would reduce fares for mass transit that more and more Americans are using as an alternative to cars. The bill passed by a vote of 322 - 98 and still needs Senate passage. Holt issued the following House floor statements in support of the two bills:

The "Responsible Federal Oil and Gas Lease Act"

I rise today in support of the H.R. 6251, the Responsible Federal Oil and Gas Lease Act.

Over the last few months we have frequently heard claims from our colleagues on the other side of the aisle that opening up more federal lands to oil and gas drilling is the magic bullet that will solve our energy crisis. They have told the American people that Democrats and environmentalists are protecting our nation's most sensitive and special environments at the expense of the American people. They have claimed that opening up land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) would quickly help bring down the price of gas. Not only are these claims misleading American families desperately seeking help with skyrocketing gas prices, they are completely false.

Currently 81 percent of our nation's federal lands are available to be leased for the purpose of oil and gas drilling. Sixty-eight million acres of the lands open for drilling both onshore and offshore currently are leased by oil companies who are not using them for production. It is estimated that these leased but unused lands could produce an additional 4.8 million barrels of oil and 44.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas each day, nearly doubling U.S. oil production and cutting oil imports by a third. Existing leases can also come online much faster than any newly leased lands, which would save only pennies per gallon, more than a decade down the road.

I would like to commend my colleague from West Virginia, Rep. Nick Rahall, for introducing H.R. 6251, the Responsible Federal Oil and Gas Lease Act. This legislation would require oil companies to certify to the Department of the Interior that they are actively developing on the lands that they have already leased. If these oil companies are not producing on these lands, they either would have to relinquish these leases or start producing on them before they could apply to lease additional lands. Also my colleagues who say "drill, drill, drill" should support this legislation and they should stop talking about drilling on our environmentally sensitive coastlines and wildlife refuges until oil companies have gone as far as they can towards developing on these currently leased lands.

This legislation is common sense and I urge my colleagues to support it. There is no logic to opening up more land to oil and gas drilling when we are not utilizing the leases we already have. Of course this legislation is not a long term solution to America's energy needs. Currently we produce 3 percent of the world's oil and consume 25 percent. Unless we find a way to dramatically reduce our fossil fuel consumption we will never be able to drill our way to energy independence. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to develop a long term solution to this crisis.

The Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act of 2008

I rise today in support of H.R. 6052, the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act of 2008.

As gas prices continue to skyrocket to over $4 a gallon, commuters are increasingly abandoning their automobiles in favor of public transportation. New Jersey's public transit agency, NJ Transit, is breaking ridership records for the sixth consecutive year, with over 900,000 trips per weekday on its trains, buses, and light-rail vehicles. In the first three months of this year, public transit trips nationwide increased by 85 million over last year's numbers. Amtrak set record highs for its service with over 25 million users last year. This increase in use not only takes cars off our overburdened roadways, it conserves energy, decreases our greenhouse gas emissions, and helps our economy.

However, mass transit agencies are also suffering from soaring gas prices, increased demand for their services, and decreased operating budgets. Transit agencies are paying 44 percent more for diesel fuel than they were at the beginning of this year, and almost half of bus operators and more than two-thirds of rail operators have increased their fares.

The Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act of 2008 would help state and local mass transit authorities meet the increase in demand and allow them to provide a cost-effective alternative to driving. This legislation would authorize $1.7 billion in grants for mass transit agencies to upgrade and expand their transit services without having to further increase their fares.

By taking public transportation the average American household could save $6,251 and help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 4,800 pounds per year. However, commuters need affordable, reliable access to public transportation if they are to utilize these benefits. This bill would help make public transit more available to commuters, and I urge my colleagues to support it.

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