Why Are Some Coastal Republicans Protecting Big Oil?

arctic refuge.jpg

As the transportation bill saga continues, yesterday the House passed a bill by a vote of 237-187 (H.R. 3408—formerly known as H.R. 3410) that would devastate our oceans and coasts.  The House plans, through a rarely-used procedure, to include it in a transportation bill in an attempt to pay for our infrastructure needs.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, the bill would force us to lease almost ALL of our land for drilling--in the Arctic Refuge, on lands out west, and off of every acre of our coast.  Essentially, nowhere in our nation would be off limits to drilling.

Although the bill is so bad that no amendments would make it acceptable, House Republicans easily killed a slew of amendments that would have improved the bill, including one to enhance the safety of offshore drilling, and one to require an estimate of the economic impacts, including job losses, of a worst-case oil spill under each lease, proving that many Members would rather give a handout to Big Oil than protect their constituents from any negative repercussions of drilling.

                   The bill allows drilling in the pristine Arctic Refuge, pictured above.                                                   Photo courtesy of Fish and Wildlife Service

While respect for state’s rights is one of the central Republican tenets, this bill completely strips states of their ability to decide if drilling is appropriate for them by forcing each and every state to drill off its coast, regardless of the consequences.  That’s a large part of why 21 Republicans actually opposed this bill.  Indeed, most of the New Jersey and Florida Republicans voted against it, along with Republicans from coastal states like California, Washington, and New York.

It makes sense for coastal Members—especially from these states—to protect their oceans from drilling.   Indeed, New Jersey’s “ocean economy” adds more than $4.7 billion to the gross state product and provides approximately 88,500 jobs in industries such as tourism, shipping, fishing, and boating.  Florida’s ocean and coastal economy contributed over $587 billion in revenue in 2006, and supported 511,000 jobs and $13.5 billion in wages in 2005. And California’s ocean economy is the largest in the nation!

Why would any Member from these states vote to put their ocean and coastline, along with the steady revenue stream and JOBS it provides, at risk? That’s what we should be asking the rest of the New Jersey Republicans – Reps. Garrett, Lance, and Runyan – and the remainder of the Florida GOP delegation – Reps. Crenshaw, Mack, Mica, Posey, Rooney, Ross, Stearns, and Webster.