July 7, 2006 – The US House of Representatives last Thursday approved a bill to lift federal bans on offshore oil and gas exploration, alarming environmentalists who say the measure would open up Americaâ€™s coasts to destructive drilling.
- Fight Over Florida Coast Oil Intensifies Around Energy Bill (Jul 29, 2005)
- Industries, Interior Dept. Eye Offshore Drilling (May 15, 2006)
The Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act, introduced by Representative Richard Pombo (R-California) would repeal a set of restrictions that has barred offshore drilling in certain areas for 25 years. The legislation was fueled in part by rising public anxieties over high fuel prices and dependence on foreign oil.
As previously reported by The NewStandard, lawmakers, backed by oil-industry interests and big manufacturing businesses, have steadily gained momentum in their push to lift federal moratoria on offshore oil and gas exploitation.
The bill, approved by a 232â€“187 vote, would target the area ranging about three to 200 miles off the countryâ€™s coastline under federal control, known as the Outer Continental Shelf. Companies would have unlimited drilling access for areas 100 miles or more offshore, and could also drill from 50 to100 miles offshore, pending a petition from state governments.
Before the government could offer their coastal waters up to companies, states would have up to one year after the billâ€™s enactment to ban natural-gas exploration off their coasts, and up to mid 2009 to pass a similar ban for oil drilling. States would receive royalties on fuel extraction near their coastlines.
The bill would bar the federal government from authorizing offshore drilling within 50 miles of US coasts, though individual state legislatures could pass measures to allow leasing closer to shore.
The House bill will head toward a reconciliation process with recently passed Senate legislation, which offers the industry narrower access to federal waters. That bill would permit drilling on 3 million acres off the Florida Coast in the Gulf of Mexico.
The government estimates that about 19 billion barrels of oil lie in restricted offshore areas; the country consumes about 7.5 billion barrels per year.