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          Front Page




Senators Want Ideas for Cutting Use of Natural Gas

By Tania Soussan
Journal Staff Writer
    Have an idea to increase the nation's natural gas supply or reduce gas use?
    The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee wants to hear it.
    Committee Chairman Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., on Monday invited everyone— from industry and government to public interest groups and private citizens— to send in their legislative proposals.
    "We're purposely taking a fresh and creative approach," said Marnie Funk, a spokeswoman for the committee. "We're requesting these proposals from anybody and everybody."
    Domenici wants innovative ideas that offer long-term solutions to what he and other national energy policy leaders consider a looming crisis in natural gas supply and demand.
    Gas supplies have been tightening for years, and prices began climbing sharply in June 2001 and have continued to creep up, forcing some companies to move overseas, according to the committee.
    Inviting the public to submit proposals is a way to "build consensus from the grassroots up," Funk said.
    Gwen Lachelt, executive director of the Durango, Colo.-based Oil & Gas Accountability Project, welcomed the opportunity.
    "It sounds good that they're soliciting ideas on how to reduce demand," she said. "We'll certainly put in our two cents."
    Lachelt said conservation is the way to go because increased gas pumping is already harming the environment.
    Bob Gallagher, president of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, also said it's good to ask the public for ideas but he said conservation alone isn't the answer.
    "It's a very logical approach to take because people who understand the entire issue understand we are moving rapidly toward demand overtaking supply," he said.
    Proposals are due Jan. 7. Committee staff will review the submissions and hold a half-day meeting to discuss the most promising ideas later in January.
    The best proposals will be considered by the senators on the committee and could become part of a new comprehensive energy bill that will be drafted, starting in February, Funk said.
    The committee will issue guidelines for the proposals later this week. The contact on the panel is Lisa Epifani at lisa--epifani@energy.senate.gov.