This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) that would have required the Interior Department to ensure that oil-drilling projects comply with all environmental and fisheries laws when reviewing applications for drilling permits. This amendment was offered to legislation requiring the Secretary of the Interior to approve or deny offshore oil drilling leases within 30 days of receiving an application.
Following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the Obama administration imposed an offshore drilling moratorium. The administration lifted that moratorium, however, in May 2010. Despite the lifting of the moratorium, however, Republicans argued that the administration had been too slow in approving leases for drilling, and contributed to high gasoline prices. The Obama administration (and many congressional Democrats) countered that it was seeking to improve drilling safety in order to prevent another oil spill disaster.
Polis argued that, given the environmental havoc that resulted from the BP oil spill disaster, Congress needed to ensure that oil drilling was being conducted in an environmentally safe manner: “…Following last year's BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, one would think that a foundational and critical element of any bill related to offshore deepwater oil drilling would be to improve our safety and environmental safeguards based on the lessons that we learned the hard way from a horrific national tragedy, costing jobs and reducing health and damaging the environment….for years an ongoing problem in issuing permits for offshore drilling has been the Department of the Interior's failure to follow requirements set out under our nation's foundational environmental protection laws and fisheries laws. These laws…protect wildlife as well as fisheries and beaches that sustain the gulf's fishing and tourism industries.
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) opposed this amendment: “Although well intended, this amendment is duplicative and would add delays to the permitting process and production of American-made energy. It is the responsibility of the Department of the Interior as overseers of permitting in the gulf to ensure safe and environmentally responsible drilling in the gulf….In carrying out its responsibilities, the department already must comply with numerous environmental statutes, regulations, and executive orders. These regulations include the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Fishery Conservation and Management Act. And I may have left some out. This demonstrates the redundancy in this amendment and why it is not necessary. Administration officials…have stated on numerous occasions to both the Natural Resources Committee and the American people that they would not permit operations if they did not believe they meet all the requirements to be conducted safely, efficiently, and in an environmentally responsible manner….The real effect of this amendment, whether intended or not, is more delays to offshore energy production and more lengthy and burdensome lawsuits.”
The House rejected this amendment by a vote of 167-245. Voting “yea” were 164 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 3 Republicans. 230 Republicans and 15 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected an amendment that would have required the Interior Department to ensure that oil-drilling projects comply with all environmental and fisheries laws when reviewing applications for drilling permits.