Panel passes bill to reform oil, gas leasing

The House Natural Resources Committee Thursday approved a bill, 27-21, to revamp oversight of oil and gas leasing in response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Sponsored by House Natural Resources Chairman Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., the measure would split the Interior Department's troubled Minerals Management Service into three entities so that leasing, oversight, and revenue-collection operations would be separate from each other.

Following a marathon markup Wednesday, the panel also turned back all pending amendments by Republicans, who have argued it is premature to address problems of the MMS before a probe of the Gulf spill is complete.

GOP critics also contend the bill includes provisions unrelated to drilling, and many of the Republican amendments sought to delete what they viewed as extraneous items from the measure.

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