Ah! Summer in Washington -- but what a summer this is shaping up to be.
This month the Senate will take up the bill addressing leasing the OCS Area 181 in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. The expectation is that the Senate bill (S. 3711, called the “181 Bill”), if passed, will be the counterpart to H.R. 4761, the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act passed by the House of Representatives on June 29.
Conference proceedings likely will begin shortly after Senate action and naming of conferees for both the House and Senate. Both houses are expected to move quickly to name conferees if the Senate passes its OCS legislation.
AAPG President Lee Billingsley sent letters to the leadership of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee encouraging them to give favorable consideration to expanded OCS access. A copy of the letter is located on the GEO-DC Web site, which can be accessed from the AAPG home page. (A portion is included in the box to the left.)
At deadline, the Senate had not yet voted on S. 3711. Sentiment was running strong that they would vote on the measure before they adjourned for the August recess. The House recessed during the last week in July and mid-term election campaigns beckon.
If the House and Senate do not conference and pass an OCS bill before the end of this session, the 110th Congress will begin with a clean agenda, and the work of the 109th Congress to pass OCS access legislation will have to begin anew.
In a related topic, GEO-DC has learned the final comment period for the Minerals Management Service 2007-2012 OCS Leasing Plan (the process of nominating acreage) will open in early September.
AAPG members responded in significant numbers to the call to participate in the intermediate comment process that closed in early April during the AAPG Annual Convention in Houston. Many of you responded by going to the Consumers Energy Alliance booth in the exhibit hall, sending your comments in real time. Congratulations. You participated in a process that employed the same strategy used successfully by the opponents of OCS access to reverse a longstanding trend of their domination of the comment process!
GEO-DC, in cooperation with the Consumers Energy Alliance and other organizations, will be urging members to present comments to Congress on OCS legislation and to the MMS in the case of the Five-Year Plan.
Expanded OCS access is the underlying theme of three of the AAPG position papers covering the United States and Canada OCS as well as U.S. energy supply. Look for “Action Alerts” to provide members when the window for both events presents itself.
As scientists, we often find that we are not comfortable moving to the next logical step in reporting science to aiding non-scientists to understand the implications in a social or cultural perspective of what the science imports.
In the case of both the pending OCS legislation and the MMS five-year plan, that next step could very well mean that each member as an individual takes a stand that can potentially result in future employment (or lack of employment). Greater access to more of the OCS impacts us as individual petroleum professionals as well as the nation and the global energy markets.
A quick reminder -- your engagement on these issues, as in stating your position to your lawmakers, is a right and privilege guaranteed in the First Amendment of the Constitution.
On a more sobering note, the Senate Appropriations Committee finished its deliberations on DOE’s fiscal year 2007-08 budget with total budget recommendations of about $27 million for oil and natural gas research. That is considerably lower than the current budget of $64 million.
While there is still some small hope for easing the restrictiveness of the budget language, the net result is that DOE indicates it is preparing to notify as many as 80 grant holders of interruption of funds.
While the implications are numerous, the most significant impact will be that 30-40 percent of all petroleum geoscience and engineering graduate students in the United States likely will have to seek financial support from other sources to finish their graduate programs.