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Pelosi to Put Energy Package on Suspension Calendar

House Democratic leaders on Thursday laid out the pieces of a forthcoming energy package — sans any new offshore drilling — that could hit the floor as soon as next week on the suspension calendar.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the package will include the “use it or lose it” provision requiring oil companies to either drill on all of their currently leased lands or lose them. The bill would also speed up land leasing in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, reconstitute an export ban on Alaskan oil, and build more oil and gas pipelines from Alaska to the contiguous United States.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the package will be on the floor “probably next week,” although Democratic leadership aides said the bill may not reach the floor that soon.

Pelosi signaled that the bill will be set on the suspension calendar, which means no opportunity for amendments and limited debate. This effectively shuts out the possibility of Republicans bringing up the politically sensitive topic of offshore drilling amendments.

The Speaker defended her use of the suspension calendar to advance a major energy package, saying that Democrats are “trying to get a job done here” and that they work “very hard to get consensus” on a bill before bringing it to the floor.

Outside of that energy package, senior Democratic aides said two other energy issues could surface in separate vehicles in the coming weeks: a bill to crack down on market speculation and a bill calling on President Bush to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

To further that point, during Thursday’s press conference, Democrats displayed a poster with an image of the White House in the background and with the phone number and e-mail address to the White House in big bold letters across the center. Along the top, the poster read “Free Our Oil.”

The Speaker emphasized that Democrats are not opposed to drilling, but to drilling in “pristine environmental areas,” such as the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. In fact, Hoyer made a point of saying this week that Democrats aren’t against drilling.

“The American people want the price of oil to come down,” Pelosi said. “They don’t know ANWR from NPRA.”

There are 20 million acres available for drilling in NPRA that have not been leased, the Speaker said. “They can do this right now.”

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