Campaigns Duel Over Energy Plans

August 24, 2012

By SARA MURRAY, The Wall Street Journal

HOBBS, N.M.—Mitt Romney’s energy plan, which he outlined Thursday at an oil-field supply shop here, would reverse efforts by President Barack Obama’s Interior Department to tighten rules on companies extracting oil and natural gas on federal lands.

Mr. Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, laid out the benefits he sees in drilling on federal lands and waters, saying a hands-off regulatory approach would boost output and create jobs.

Some of Mr. Romney’s proposals, including giving states control over drilling permits for wells located on federal land, would likely meet Democratic resistance, and passage would depend on the partisan balance in Congress.

“I like wind and solar like the next person,” Mr. Romney said. “But I don’t want the law to be used to stop the production of oil and gas and coal.”

Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for the Obama campaign, said the Romney plan “really is just rubber-stamping oil companies’ drilling plans without fully considering safety.”

Environmental groups said the plan neglected new energy sources and didn’t address climate change. “We need to invest in and support policies that promote the growth of cleaner energy alternatives,” said Yvette Pena Lopes, deputy director of the BlueGreen Alliance, a partnership of labor unions and environmental groups.

Industry groups praised Romney’s plan. Virginia Lazenby, chief executive of Nashville oil and gas company Bretagne LLC, said it “incorporates the appropriate role of government in energy policy, which must be to promote energy development rather than stifle it.”

During the Obama administration, the government has adopted environmental safety rules for the drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing and established stricter rules for deep-water drilling. It also decreased the number of onshore and offshore drilling permits exempted from environmental review, a fast-track approach used regularly under President George W. Bush.

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