Romney, in major energy speech, favors turning regulatory powers over to states

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Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney wants a major shift in the oversight of energy production on federal lands, handing responsibility over to state governments as part of his newly announced energy plan. Romney, who framed his plan by pledging the United States will be energy independent by 2020, called for increased domestic energy production, with a heavy focus on offshore exploration as well as coal mining, during a speech to supporters today in Hobbs, N.M.

The Romney campaign previewed the Republican’s plan in a teleconference yesterday, focusing on lowering gasoline prices, reducing U.S. EPA regulations that affect the coal industry and approving the Keystone XL pipeline that would transport oil from Canadian oil sands to the Gulf of Mexico.

Among the six major components of Romney’s plan Romney staff cited is the transfer of control over energy production on federal lands — including oil and gas drilling as well as renewable resources — to the states themselves. The proposal would represent an unprecedented change in the management of hundreds of millions of acres of lands under the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, and Fish and Wildlife Service.

The plan noted it would exclude “only lands specifically designated off-limits” but did not specify whether such areas might include national parks, wilderness areas or roadless lands.

States would be given control of regulatory and permitting processes for federal lands within their borders, although unspecified federal agencies would certify each state’s decisionmaking process.

Romney’s plan also calls for the creation of a “State Energy Development Council” in which states would work together to share “expertise and best management practices.”