Congressman Jim Matheson said comprehensive energy legislation up for a vote in the House today will include provisions he sought, including more off-shore drilling and lifting the moratorium on commercial oil shale leasing in Utah. Matheson is a member of the Energy subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and a former energy businessman.
"Everything has to be on the table, as we start to move away from our dependence on foreign oil. Utah has much to offer, including oil and gas, coal, andpotentiallyjet and diesel fuels from oil shale, if the technology proves viable. We need more domestic supply as a bridge to get us to a future powered by alternative and renewable energy sources. Our national security and our economic security depend on getting this right," said Matheson.
Matheson said his provision on oil shale is included in H.R. 6899 - The Comprehensive American Energy Security & Consumer Protection Act. The bill allows states to determine whether to drill from 50 to 100 miles offshore; lifts the moratorium on oil shale leasing in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, if the state enacts a law in support of commercial leasing; provides $19 billion for renewable energy tax incentives, including tax breaks for coal projects that capture carbon, plug-in hybrid cars and fueling stations for natural gas vehicles.
Specifically, Matheson's provision permits the Interior Department to issue leases to explore for and extract oil shale on federal lands in states that enact laws permitting such leasing. Utah's Uintah Basin has rich oil shale deposits, composing a portion of the estimated 1.8 trillion barrels of oil in place within the borders of the three Rocky Mountain states. Matheson said existing environmental regulations must be followed.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer credits Matheson with lifting the moratorium.
"Jim Matheson was unwavering in his efforts to ensure that language allowing states the opportunity to develop oil shale resources was included in the energy bill. This language will lift the moratorium on the final federal oil shale regulations and allow Utah to move forward in its long pursuit of this domestic natural resource. With the passage of this energy bill, Utahns have Jim Matheson to thank for bringing this issue to the attention of Leadership," Hoyer said.
Matheson said he's pleased that HR 6899 designates the offshore lease revenue as funding for alternative energy development. He said the comprehensive bill also includes new ethics requirements for the Minerals Management Service, a division of the Department of Interior that oversees the leasing program. This follows an Inspector General report critical of activities by federal employees with oil industry workers.