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Fracas erupts over House energy bill

WASHINGTON, June 22 (UPI) -- An oil trade group praised a package of energy deals passed by U.S. lawmakers though a critic described the legislation as a gift to oil companies.

A package of seven bills passed through the U.S. House of Representatives as the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act. The measures aim to increase the amount of federal land, including Alaskan reserves, open for oil and natural gas exploration.

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American Petroleum Institute Vice President Marty Durbin, whose group represents more than 500 oil and natural gas companies, said increased domestic energy production would kick-start a sluggish U.S. economy.

"Greater access to domestic energy resources combined with smarter policies that boost our refining industry will benefit consumers in the long run," he said in a statement. "More home grown energy is good for all Americans."

More than 56 international energy companies submitted bids worth more than $2.6 billion in a lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico this week.

U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee, described the legislation as a sham.

"Republicans passed a bill that would cede nearly all of America's public lands to oil companies within just a few short years but wouldn't even allow a debate on wind, solar, and a real 'all of the above' energy strategy," he said in a statement.

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U.S. President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the measure.

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