The Mankato Free Press reports in Oil gridlock under attack:
Congressman Tim Walz is part of a coalition of Republican and Democratic House members who believe they have a solution to the partisan gridlock on legislation to tackle America’s growing energy crisis.
The proposed legislation would allow more oil drilling off the nation’s coasts and use royalties paid for the drilling rights to finance alternative energy and conservation programs. It would maintain the ban on drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge while releasing oil from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve to drive down prices in the short term.
“I think it’s what the public has been asking for,” Walz said.
The coalition, which Walz said was made up of 14 Republicans and 10 Democrats, has been meeting for about one month without the blessing or participation of House leaders from either party. A Mankato Democrat, Walz said the coalition’s hope is that House members will get an earful from constituents during their long August recess about the gridlock on energy in Washington and that the lawmakers will return in September looking for a compromise to enact. . . .
. . .The idea was already garnering some supporters Wednesday.
“There’s been a pretty big push today in co-sponsors and people who want to get on it. By the end of the day, I’m hoping we’ll have more than 50,” said Walz, who expects that number will grow after lawmakers spend some time with constituents next month. “... It’s kind of using the leverage of the public.”
Read the whole thing at the Free Press. In Walz, bipartisan group seek limited oil drilling, none in ANWR, the Rochester Post Bulletin says:
Democratic Rep. Tim Walz of Mankato has joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers to introduce sweeping energy legislation that would open coastal waters to new oil exploration, but would continue to ban drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The leaders of the 23-member Bipartisan Energy Working Group said they came together on the package to break the stalemate in Congress over high gasoline prices, with Republicans and Democrats seeking to advance legislation before their upcoming August recess.
"If we don't take action, what right do we have to be here?" said co-founder Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, at a Capitol news conference.
Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa., fellow co-founder, said the group did not work with lobbyists nor representatives of the congressional leadership of either party. . . .
. . .Walz said he came to support new offshore drilling because the bill includes what he considers to be a comprehensive set of domestic energy initiatives, such as new funding for wind power and so-called clean coal technology research, among others.
"The overwhelming chorus from our constituents is to solve this in a wide spectrum of solutions," he said. . . .
. . .The proposal would end the current drilling moratorium along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and the 125-mile moratorium along the Florida coast in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. It would be replaced with a minimum moratorium distance of 25 miles, with states retaining the right to extend the limit an additional 25 miles.
Walz said he pushed, as late as yesterday, for inclusion of the state drilling limit to assuage coastal states and those along the Great Lakes, including Minnesota, that wish to retain some control over offshore drilling. . . .
The paper reports that the GOP primary challengers responded differently to the announcement. Davis is taking a my-way-or-the-highway approach, while Day is more upbeat. In a moment of comic relief, Davis's campaign manager accuses Walz trying to make it all about gas prices. Who knew Brad Biers possessed such a brilliant ironic streak?
Lawmakers involved in the deal said they hope voter anger at $4-per-gallon gasoline prices and the threat of even steeper jumps in home heating costs next winter will translate into pressure on congressional leaders to embrace the plan.
Not to worry: a little red and white duct tape can make all those Davis campaign "Drill Here, Drill Now" signs work just great for advertising garage sales and bean feeds.
Roll Call reports in Bipartisan Energy Group Set to Unveil Proposal:
Members of an elusive House energy working group are finally making themselves known and pledging to unveil bipartisan legislation this week that was intentionally crafted without any input from leadership.
Led by Reps. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) and John Peterson (R-Pa.), the 28-member group announced Wednesday that they will file a comprehensive energy package as soon Thursday, with the hope that the House will consider it in September.
The group was borne out of frustration with party leaders and their seeming inability to find common ground on energy legislation aimed at lowering gas prices. Bracing for a possible backlash from environmental groups as well as party leaders, several Members have kept their identities under wraps as the group has been hammering out a final proposal.
Democratic members include Reps. Nick Lampson ( Texas ), Jim Costa ( Calif. ), Gene Green ( Texas ) and freshman Rep. Tim Walz ( Minn. ). Republicans in the group include Reps. Dan Burton (Ind.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Rob Bishop (Utah), Robin Hayes (N.C.), Tim Murphy (Pa.), Henry Brown (S.C.) and Thelma Drake (Va.).
After meeting for the past few weeks, members of the group reached a final deal on the bill on Tuesday night and have begun collecting signatures for it. At the heart of the proposal is a call for offshore drilling — something opposed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — and the use of its revenues for renewable energy investments.
Setting up a potentially interesting showdown among House Democrats in September, both Abercrombie and Costa said they would not support an expected resolution to continue an offshore drilling ban that is set to expire at the end of that month.
The working group is mentioned in a CQ Politics article, Moderates Come Front and Center:
. . .The current era, when the partisan impasse has become the default setting at the Capitol, only magnifies the opportunities for people who can come up with bipartisan solutions. “It’s the only way to get something done around here,” says Democrat Kent Conrad of North Dakota.
Conrad, fellow Democrat Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Republican Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, along with seven other senators from both the parties, are now in search of just such a bipartisan package to address energy prices, an issue that has become highly partisan and nearly impossible for the leadership to tackle. A similar effort is under way in the House, where a dozen lawmakers from each party have joined an ad hoc caucus formed by Democrat Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii and Republican John E. Peterson of Pennsylvania.
The only precondition for the House groups is that its member support a resumption of offshore drilling as a way to boost supplies. [presumably, this means "drilling in additional areas"-ed. note]
Investors Business Daily called it the Reality Revolt.
The Houston Chronicle has more in Coalition is seeking more offshore drilling; Energy effort bypasses leaders in Congress.
Walz's recent releases had been signaling that he was open to more drilling so long as it was accompanied by conservation, environmental oversight, and investment in renewables. On July 16, he issued this statement:
"Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke's warning of the risks of greater inflation and further economic slowdown is another wake up call for Washington. Business as usual won't work -- we need a change. Sky-rocketing gas prices are hurting working people, middle class families and small businesses - and, it hurts bad. That's why I am encouraging Democratic and Republican leaders to end partisan bickering to find a comprehensive solution on gas prices. This is an extraordinary time that requires an extraordinary willingness to roll up our sleeves and find agreement. I am open to expanding domestic drilling and oil production that is done in a responsible manner so long as it's part of a bipartisan, comprehensive agreement that includes conservation, speeds up development of new affordable fuels and cracks down on speculation.
We need to end the finger pointing and get to work on developing more short and long term common sense solutions that are good for the American people both now and long into the future."
Looks like he did a bit of follow up on that statement. At the time, we prefaced the statement with this observation:
We need to know that details about how Walz defines "expanded drilling" before we give this statement a thumbs up or down. Opening ANWR? Not a chance. Increased and expedited leasing, exploration and production in already open public lands like NPR-A and offshore areas with proper caution and due environmental (and royalty) diligence? Sure.
This new proposal will be opening more offshore waters to drilling, but there's no gutting of environmental precautions, nor is ANWR opened. We're not convinced oil shale is going to be economically or environmentally feasible; so-called clean coal is also a bit of a stretch. We do like the increased investment in conservation and research into renewables.
The provision of allowing wood waste from national forests to be used for biomass projects will help projects similar to the Western Biomass plant in Wyoming that makes ethanol from wood waste. The extension of the production tax credit for wind, solar, and biomass is also a step forward.