GOP Leadership Wants to Drill Here, There, and EVERYWHERE

On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee will mark-up three bills that would require the Administration to drill, baby, drill, and use the revenues from the expanded drilling to fund the transportation bill.

If enacted, the proposal, at best, would produce less than 1% of the revenues needed to fund the transportation bill at the cost of opening virtually every acre of our outer continental shelf (OCS) to oil and gas development.

Indeed, the “Energy Security and Transportation Jobs Act” (H.R. 3410), which the House Republican leadership plans to marry with their version of the transportation bill, represents a staggering assault on our ocean and coasts.  Without regard for the millions of people who depend on a healthy ocean for their livelihoods, such as fishermen and tourism operators, this bill would systematically ensure that we drill off of every coastline in the country.

Here’s a breakdown of the destruction this bill would inflict upon our oceans.

    • Title I – Title I would require the Secretary of Interior to lease at least 50% of all unleased acreage for oil and gas drilling every five years, essentially doubling oil drilling every five years until our entire OCS is subsumed. To be clear: this bill doesn’t just makes these acres available for drilling—it actually requires leasing to occur, no matter what, until all OCS areas along both coasts are leased. But that’s not enough for House Republicans. No—they want to ensure that this environmental destruction will be completed quickly. That’s why Title I also requires that the OCS off the Atlantic coast, Pacific coast, and in the Gulf of Mexico, and Alaska, be made available for leasing in the 2012-2017 oil and gas leasing program.  That means drilling would commence off of every coastline in our country by 2017 at the latest – from Maine to Florida, off California, in the Gulf, and in America’s Arctic.
    • Title II – Apparently, even 2012-2017 is too long for the GOP to wait when it comes to drilling.  That’s why Title II requires lease sales before 2014 in sensitive areas the Administration has put off limits to drilling.  Indeed, the bill would force the Administration to reopen a lease off Virginia that the Administration cancelled in an effort to employ lessons learned from the BP oil disaster.  It would also mandate lease sales off Southern California, despite the fact that President Obama excluded this area from his OCS leasing proposed program for 2012-2017, and prevent the state of California from weighing in on this decision.  Finally, it would mandate drilling in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, which President Obama put under a moratorium in 2010 due largely to the fact that it’s home to a billion-dollar salmon fishery. 
    • Title III – Title III would repeal the current legislative moratorium on oil and gas leasing in the Eastern Gulf that is contained in the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA).  Moreover, the bill would mandate three lease sales in the Eastern Gulf—all of which would occur before 2016 and could lie near Florida. 
    • Title IV – To top it all off, Title IV forces revenue sharing. Oil and gas resources on the OCS are owned by the American people, and the revenues they generate belong to all Americans. However, TItle IV would send a cut of the income generated from selling our nation’s ocean resources directly to states to use for any purpose, with no accountability to the federal taxpayer.  Worse, revenue sharing serves as an inducement to states to support harmful drilling, regardless of the consequences. 

    If the House GOP leadership were serious about jobs, like they keep saying they are, they wouldn’t hold up a transportation bill our country needs with a monstrosity like this that has absolutely no chance of ever passing the Senate.  To call this a jobs bill, is akin to saying the BP oil spill clean-up was a boon to the Gulf Coast economy—not only is it false, it’s just plain insulting.

    About the Authors

    Elly Pepper

    Wildlife Advocate, Land & Wildlife program

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