Lawmakers End Offshore Drilling Ban for America's Coastlines

WASHINGTON (June 29, 2006) - In winning a House vote tonight to overturn the 25-year ban on energy drilling off our coasts, the oil and gas industry demonstrated with breathtaking clarity what money can buy.

In the 2006 election cycle alone, the oil and gas industry donated at least $3.7 million dollars to House members. Now the industry will get access to coastal areas that have been protected by Congress for 25 years, and taxpayers will foot the bill to the tune of at least $3.6 billion, and as much as $11 billion, thanks to the House bill.

"This shameless handout to Big Oil and Gas was the centerpiece of 'House Energy Week' -- a short week even by congressional standards that produced nothing to address America's oil addiction," said Karen Wayland, legislative director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

"Instead of catering to Big Oil and Gas, the Senate will have a chance to focus on the many faster, cheaper and cleaner ways to meet our energy needs -- renewable sources of energy like home-grown biofuels, greater fuel efficiency in our vehicles, smart-growth policies, and wind and solar energy,'' Wayland said. "That's what will lead us to energy independence."

Wayland also noted that 80 percent of our known offshore oil and gas reserves are already available for drilling. "The oil and gas companies today have access to more than 40 million acres of offshore leases, but fewer than 7 million of those acres are in production," Wayland said. "Today's action just threatens beaches and ocean life in many sensitive areas all across the nation."

Even House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) was embarrassed by the paucity of genuine solutions offered during "House Energy Week,'' telling reporters: "The last of theme weeks is this week. Never again."

The House vote also spotlighted the oil and gas industry's long-term investment strategy. Since 1989, oil and gas interests have given at least $191 million to federal candidates, officeholders, and political parties, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Not surprisingly, the "Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act" contains new giveaways that the oil and gas industry hardly needs while rolling back environmental protection laws. The bill exempts seismic testing and individual oil and gas lease sales from environmental impact statements, as currently required by the National Environmental Protection Act. And it would reduce the amount of royalties that oil and gas companies must pay for tar sands and oil shale development. These companies also no longer would be required to remove offshore drilling rigs when they are done drilling. States could request to opt out of this rig removal rollback, but the U.S. Department of Interior would make the final decision.

The bill now goes to the Senate.