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POLITICS: PennAve

Ted Cruz outlines energy bill with fewer restrictions on fracking

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Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, laid out broad energy proposals Monday at a Heritage Action event in Washington that he says he will roll into legislation.

Monday's speech was the junior senator's first major foray into energy policy. The bill he outlined would incorporate many policies Republicans have been pushing for years -- namely, expanding drilling on federal lands, both onshore and offshore, while also limiting regulations on oil and gas development.

Cruz hailed the shale energy boom that's occurred because of advancements in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, technology as a "providential blessing" for the nation and for economic growth, and he called on the federal government to restrain regulation.

"We are seeing extraordinary developments in energy that are opening resources that five or 10 years ago would have been unimaginable," he said.

Fracking involves injecting a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals into tight-rock formations to access hydrocarbons buried deep underground. The industry credits the practice with driving domestic energy production, but environmental and public health groups fear it could contaminate drinking water.

On fracking, the Interior Department is pushing a draft rule that would establish guidelines for well integrity, managing so-called flowback water and chemical disclosure on federal lands. Industry and conservatives say the rule is duplicative when combined with state regulations, while environmental and public health groups say it doesn't go far enough.

Cruz's bill would go beyond fracking. He said it would also call for ending restrictions on crude oil and liquefied natural gas exports, eliminating the biofuel-blending mandate known as the renewable fuel standard and opening offshore blocks currently off-limits to drilling.

The senator also called for scuttling the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed emissions rules for power plants and for approving the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

Cruz's proposals would face long odds in the Senate, and President Obama would likely veto such measures.

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