H.R. 5716: Safer Oil and Natural Gas Drilling Technology Research and Development Act

H.R. 5716

Safer Oil and Natural Gas Drilling Technology Research and Development Act

Date
July 20, 2010 (111th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

H.R. 5716 is expected to be considered on the floor of the House on Tuesday, July 20, 2010, under a motion to suspend the rules, requiring a two-thirds vote for passage. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) on July 13, 2010. The Committee on Science and Technology approved the bill by voice vote on July 14, 2010.

Bill Summary

H.R. 5716 would change the program title to the “Safer Oil and Natural Gas Drilling Technology Research and Development Program,” and further makes the following major changes to the Section 999 program:

  • The primary objective of the program is modified to “maximize the benefits of natural gas and other petroleum resources of the United States by advancing the safe and environmentally responsible exploration, development, and production of those resources.”
  • The specific statutory “focus areas” for each of the four major program categories shifts from a primary emphasis on drilling to a primary emphasis on safety and accident prevention.
  • Overall program funding levels are unchanged by the legislation, but the allocation for extramural program activities is reduced from a total of 75 percent to 65 percent, while the DOE in-house portion of the program is increased from 25 percent to 35 percent and re-focused on specific safety and accident prevention and mitigation issues.
  • The scope of the offshore component of the program is expanded to include all technologies for use in “Deepwater” (water depths of 1,000 feet and greater), broadening its scope from the current focus on “Ultra-Deepwater” (5,000 feet and greater).

Background

Section 999 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 created an R&D program at the Department of Energy (DOE) intended to:

“maximize the value of natural gas and other petroleum resources of the United States, by increasing the supply of such resources, through reducing the cost and increasing the efficiency of exploration for and production of such resources, while improving safety and minimizing environmental impacts.”

The program supports, through a collaborative effort between the DOE and a consortium including universities, small producers, large and small businesses and research organizations, cutting-edge technologies to enhance safe and environmentally responsible offshore and onshore oil and gas development.

That law also authorized direct spending of $50 million annually for the program (funded through oil and gas royalties), allocated to the following four components: (1) ultra-deepwater drilling R&D (35 percent/$17.5 million); (2) onshore unconventional natural gas R&D (32.5 percent/$16.25 million); (3) R&D targeted at needs of small producers (7.5 percent/$3.75 million); and (4) complementary in-house R&D supported by DOE (25 percent/$12.5 million). 

The Obama Administration has proposed terminating the program as part of its Fiscal Year 2010 and Fiscal Year 2011 budget requests.  Congress restored funding in final Fiscal Year 2010 appropriations legislation.

Cost

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had not produced a cost estimate for H.R. 5716 as of press time.