Wednesday, July 25, 2012

DEMS & GOP Stark Differences In Debate Over OCS Drilling Plan

Jul 23: The Republican-controlled U.S. House is considering legislation related to oil and gas development offshore on the outer continental shelf (OCS). Up or down votes are planned on the Administration's proposal or a much expanded Republican alternative plan. The votes are expected later today (see contacts below) [See WIMS 6/29/12].
    The White House has issued a formal Statement of Administrative Policy on H.R.6082, the Congressional Replacement of the President's Offshore Drilling Plan bill, introduced by Representative Doc Hastings (R-WA), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. The bill is currently under consideration on the House Floor. The bill would "officially replace, within the 60-day Congressional review period under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, President Obama's Proposed Final Outer Continental Shelf Oil & Gas Leasing Program (2012-2017) with a congressional plan that will conduct additional oil and natural gas lease sales to promote offshore energy development, job creation, and increased domestic energy production to ensure a more secure energy future in the United States, and for other purposes." The Administration's Policy Statement indicates:
"The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 6082, which would undermine the targeted, science-based, and regionally-tailored offshore development strategy that the American people and the States have helped develop over the last three years.
"The Administration is committed to promoting safe and responsible domestic oil and gas development as part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy to increase domestic production and reduce dependence on foreign oil. The Administration's recently announced five-year strategy for offshore oil and gas leasing makes areas containing more than 75 percent of estimated, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in our oceans available for exploration and development -- including all of the highest resource areas on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). This plan was developed following extensive input from the public, industry, States, Tribes, and others, and incorporates lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
"H.R. 6082 would require the Department of the Interior to open a number of new areas on the OCS. This action would be directed without Secretarial discretion to determine whether those areas are appropriate for leasing through balanced consideration of factors such as resource potential, State and local views and concerns, and the maturity of infrastructure needed to support oil and gas development, including in the event of an oil spill. The bill would mandate OCS lease sales along the east and west coast and elsewhere without regard for significant issues such as State and local concerns and impacts on important fishing areas and with inadequate consideration of military use conflicts.
"The bill also would establish unworkable deadlines and substantive and procedural limitations on important environmental review and other analysis that is critical to complying with laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and the Clean Water Act. Full compliance with these laws is important for the protection of citizens, communities, and the environment and is necessary in order to avoid costly and time-consuming litigation. If the President were presented with H.R. 6082, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.
    Chairman Hastings issue a Floor statement saying:

"Under the shadow of the Supreme Court's ruling on Obamacare, the Obama Administration on June 28th quietly announced the President's proposed final offshore drilling plan for 2012-2017. Despite claims of being proud of their energy record, the Obama Administration deliberately chose to announce their plan on a day when it would get buried in Obamacare news coverage. This shows that even the Obama Administration is not proud of their plan that would place 85 percent of America's offshore areas off-limits to energy production.

"Under section 18 of the Outer Continental Shelf Leasing Act, when any President proposes a new five-year offshore drilling plan it must be submitted to Congress for a mandatory 60-day review before it can become final and take effect. That 60-day clock is ticking. It's now Congress' responsibility to take action -- to reject President Obama's no-new-drilling, no-new-jobs plan and to replace it with a robust, responsible plan to safely develop our offshore energy resources. According to analysis conducted by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, the President has proposed fewer lease sales in his plan than any President since the process began. President Obama rates worse than even Jimmy Carter.

"President Obama's proposal doesn't open one new area for leasing and energy production. It would set our nation's energy production back to the days before 2008 when two moratoria prohibited drilling of the vast majority of America's offshore areas. Both moratoria were lifted after the summer of 2008 due to the outrage of the American people over the cost of four-dollar-per-gallon gasoline – and they demanded that the federal government take action. President Obama proposes to effectively re-impose the moratoria.

"From nearly the day he took the oath of office, President Obama has put the brakes on new American energy production and job creation. In the first weeks of the Administration, the Interior Department took a nearly complete new offshore lease plan and put it on hold for six-months, and then tossed that draft plan out entirely and started over. It took them over three and half years to get a new proposed plan in place. Along the way, they delayed and canceled multiple lease sales.

"For example, President Obama canceled the Virginia lease sale scheduled for 2011 and now refuses to include Virginia in his 2012-2017 plan. He is responsible for closing an entire new area to drilling and cheating the Commonwealth out of thousands of jobs. If President Obama has his way, Virginia will be left out in the cold until 2017 at the absolute soonest.

"The bill being considered today, H.R. 6082, is titled the 'Congressional Replacement of President Obama's Energy-Restricting and Job-limiting Offshore Drilling Plan.' In stark contrast to President Obama's plan, this bill represents a drill-smart plan that includes 29 lease sales and focuses energy production in specific areas containing America's greatest known oil and natural gas resources. The bill would replace the lease sales schedule in the President's proposed plan and safely open new areas that were previously under moratoria -- such as the Mid-Atlantic, Southern Pacific and Arctic. It does this while ensuring that necessary and required environmental reviews are conducted. The Congressional replacement plan would generate $600 million in additional revenue and create tens of thousands of new American jobs.

"Tomorrow there will be a direct up or down vote on the President's proposed plan when we consider H.R. 6168 [also introduced by Rep. Hastings] under suspension of the rules. There will also be a direct up or down vote on this bill to replace it. Members can decide if the President's plan meets the standards expected by the American people or if we should replace it with a real plan to create jobs and grow our economy.

"The House is taking action to replace the President's proposed plan and I call on the Senate to do the same. If the Senate does nothing and lets the 60-day clock run out, that is an endorsement of the President's plan. It's an endorsement of a plan that re-imposes the drilling moratoria, creates no-new jobs and no-new energy. For the Senators of Virginia, it's an endorsement of a plan that forfeits energy production and job creation in the Commonwealth for at least another five years. We can do better than the President's proposed plan, and our Nation deservers better. By passing this bill, we are standing up for American energy and American jobs and moving our country forward."

        Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee issued a release highly critical of the Republican members consideration of "Big Oil" legislation. He indicated that "House Republicans have stalled Congress with nearly 100 hours of debate on oil drilling bills, passing 11 drilling bills out of the Natural Resources Committee and turning them into 6 massive packages of giveaways to Big Oil. Today's Republican 'Oil Above All' monstrosity, the sixth package to be voted on in the House this Congress, opens up America's coasts to drilling without setting any new safety standards."

    He indicated that in response to this agenda, Democrats on the Natural Resources Committee launched a new website called "Big Oil Congress" that keeps a counter of votes cast by House Republicans to benefit oil and gas companies ("139, as of the start of today's bill") and total hours spent debating these special interest favors ("89 hours and counting").

    Rep. Markey said in part, "And all of these bills have suffered the same fate. They were all far too extreme to pass the Senate and not a single one has been signed into law. Well, let me let everyone in on a little secret, this bill is also not becoming law. Like the bills before it, it can't pass the Senate and the Administration has already said that the President would veto it. But that reality hasn't stopped the Republican House from passing giveaways to the oil and gas industry over and over again. When you include bills that have been reported by all Committees, all together, this Republican House has already cast 139 votes on the Floor this Congress to benefit the oil and gas industry. We are going to pass 90 hours of debate on the Floor on oil and gas legislation this Congress. What a streak!"

UPDATE: 2:43 PM. On passage H.R.6082: Passed by recorded vote: 253 - 170 (Roll Call Vote no. 511).
UPDATE: 2:51 PM. On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill H.R.6168; Failed by the
Yeas and Nays:
(2/3 required): 164 - 261 (Roll Call Vote no. 512).

    Access the Administration Policy Statement (click here). Access the House Floor activities website to track today's voting (click here). Access the statement and video from Rep. Hastings (click here). Access the release from Rep. Markey (click here). Access the Democrat's website on oil & gas voting (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.6168 (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.6082 (click here). [#Energy/OCS]

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