The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1230 (the "Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now" Act), which aims to accelerate leasing in the Gulf of Mexico and reopen 3 million acres off the coast of Virginia previously closed during the drilling moratorium that followed the Gulf oil disaster. Supporters of the resolution say its mission is to "expand American energy production, create jobs and generate revenue for taxpayers."
The resolution enters the U.S. Senate amid rising fears about high gas prices over the summer. In 2008, a Democrat-controlled Congress let a moratorium on drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf expire. This time, once again, the gas gloves are off.
Voting in favor of the resolution on May 5 were Louisiana Republicans Rodney Alexander, Charles Boustany, Bill Cassidy, John Fleming, Jeff Landry and Steve Scalise, as well as Democrat Cedric Richmond, who last month said, "[BP] should be able to drill, as long as they follow the same rules that everybody else is following. ... The permitting process has been revamped and they're making sure that the safeguards are in place so we don't have another Horizon accident. ... If BP can make it through that, then I think they should be allowed to drill."
The nay votes on the House floor included all but two House Democrats —Florida's Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and North Carolina's Walter Jones.
Heather Emmert, Gulf States organizer with Environment America, said in a statement that the bills "double down on offshore drilling instead of protecting sensitive places, making drilling safer, increasing liability for economic damages, or doing anything to restore the Gulf. In effect, Congress is telling oil companies and the drilling agency, 'Forget the Gulf oil spill, forget the Oil Spill Commission recommendations, and full speed ahead on drilling.'"
A White House statement said it opposes H.R. 1230 as it would "undercut critical reforms" committed to "safe and responsible" drilling. — Alex Woodward