A staff discussion draft bill circulating through the House Natural Resources Committee seeks to make major structural and substantive changes to the Department of Interior's (DOI) offshore leasing programs. The draft bill, tentatively titled the "Federal Lands and Resources Energy Development Act of 2009," seeks to respond to major criticism that DOI and the Minerals Management Service faced last year on a variety of issues. The changes it proposes to make include: (1) consolidating all offshore and onshore energy leasing and revenue offices, including offshore renewables, under a new "Office of Federal Energy and Minerals Leasing," which would be headed by a new political appointee; (2) eliminating the royalty-in-kind program; (3) stricter ethics rules for DOI officials; (4) creating new "Regional OCS Councils" to oversee strategic planning; (5) authorizing DOI to issue new "diligent development" regulations for offshore leases; (6) repealing deepwater royalty relief; and (7) other changes to royalty collection procedures, including new criminal sanctions.
The draft bill is currently being reviewed by DOI. It is possible that the bill or sections of the bill may be combined with the House Energy and Commerce Committee's comprehensive energy and climate change bill, which won approval from that panel late last week.