This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) that would have maintained the Environmental Review Board’s authority to review—and approve or deny—applications for oil drilling permits. This amendment was offered to legislation that would loosen regulations on air pollution caused by oil and gas drilling. In addition, the underlying oil drilling bill would eliminate the Environmental Appeals Board’s authority to review applications for oil drilling leases. Quigley’s amendment would have allowed the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) to maintain this authority.
Quigley urged support for his amendment: “My amendment strikes the text which strips the ability of the Environmental Appeals Board to remand or deny the issuance of clean air permits for offshore energy exploration and extraction. Quite simply, this amendment allows the EAB to operate as it does today, saving taxpayer dollars and keeping unnecessary litigation out of the courts and in a place where unbiased and apolitical judges can make sound decisions with input from local constituencies who are most affected….The board takes approximately 5 months on the average from the time a petition is filed to receive and review briefs, hold oral arguments, and render a comprehensive written decision in a prevention of significant deterioration air permit case. Federal court review would likely take at least three or four times as long. Only four of the board's 100-plus air permit decisions have ever been appealed to a federal court, and none of the board's air permit decisions have ever been overturned. The EAB is cost-effective and efficient and has proven to be the fastest, cheapest way to achieve a final permit.”
Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) opposed Quigley’s amendment: “This [underlying bill] simply addresses the issue at hand of whether or not the Environmental Appeals Board can be used as a stalling period for exploratory permits….They will not be a part or allowed to delay exploratory permits. Why? Because we believe exploration of our resources is important, that it should not be delayed for 5 years….This bill presents a solution, an up-or-down, yes-or-no answer to a permit within 6 months, without going to the EAB for a ping-pong delay back and forth, EPA, EAB, delay after delay, and says we are going to focus on an issue of national importance, developing our resources, getting exploration performed, so that we can indeed make sure that we are heading down the path toward energy security.”
The House rejected Quigley’s amendment by a vote of 173-251. Voting “yea” were 169 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 4 Republicans. 230 Republicans and 21 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected an amendment that would have maintained the Environmental Appeals Board’s authority to review and approve or deny applications for oil drilling permits.