Monday, June 24, 2013

In rare burst of productivity, Senate passes more than a dozen wilderness, river, energy bills

By unanimous consent, the Senate quietly passed more than a dozen bills to designate wilderness in three states, protect new wild and scenic rivers and to accelerate drilling permits in the oil-rich Bakken Shale, among other provisions. It was a significant victory for wilderness advocates who have long complained that the 112th Congress was the first since the 1960s not to designate any new acres of wilderness or conserve any additional acres of public lands. It was a also a victory for energy proponents including Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), whose bills to accelerate Bakken Shale drilling and to permit a natural gas pipeline and hydropower development in Alaska also passed. The bills' passage en bloc could build bipartisan momentum for other public lands bills that have lingered in Congress for years. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has reported dozens of additional wilderness, parks, forestry, energy and lands bills to the Senate floor over the past few months. Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Murkowski, the ranking member, have told colleagues they plan to assemble lands packages on a regular basis, breaking the partisanship that snarled the panel for most of last Congress...more

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