Key lawmaker plans tough energy oversight

WASHINGTON Wed Nov 10, 2010 3:45pm EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Republican expected to lead a key Congressional energy committee said he plans to probe whether Obama administration policies are blocking offshore oil development, as his party pushes for more extensive oversight of federal agencies.

U.S. Representative Doc Hastings, the presumptive incoming head of the Natural Resources committee in the House, said he plans to explore complaints from U.S. Gulf lawmakers that the Interior Department's slow permitting process since the BP oil spill has amounted to a de facto ban on offshore drilling.

"All of those things deserve to be looked at much more closely...and that's part of the oversight responsibility," Hastings told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.

Exploring Interior's permitting process will be part of a larger movement by Republicans to increase oversight of the Obama Administration policies in the new Congress.

Congressional supervision of federal agencies has been too lax in recent years, Hastings said, but he hopes to change that.

In addition to oversight, Hastings said he plans to focus on job creation by promoting development of all energy sources on public lands, both fossil and renewable fuels.

Republicans picked up a record number of seats in last week's midterm elections, decisively taking the majority in the House of Representatives.

After the stinging defeat for his party in the House, President Barack Obama signaled he was willing to work with Republicans on energy issues such as natural gas and nuclear energy.

"Actions speak louder than words," Hastings said when asked about Obama's comments. He criticized the White House for not being aggressive enough when it came to promoting energy production.

Lawmakers recessed for midterm elections without passing any major energy legislation through both chambers.

Hastings does not think that will change when they return for a lame duck session this month, instead he said Congress will have to focus on the Bush tax cuts and passing a stop-gap spending bill required to keep the government running.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Russell Blinch and Sofina Mirza-Reid)

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