This was a vote on final passage of legislation requiring the Secretary of the Interior to auction leases for oil and gas drilling in the most oil-rich regions of the Outer Continental Shelf (specifically, those areas with more than 2.5 billion barrels of oil or 7.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas).
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 lifting the moratorium, however, Republicans argued that the administration had been too slow in approving leases for drilling, which in turn had 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.
Rep. Don Young (R-AK) urged support for this bill: “…The Americans suffering from $4 a gallon gas today, $5 a gallon gas next month must feel like they're experiencing a sense of deja vu. It was just three short years ago, in 2008, when gasoline prices reached a record high of $4.11 per gallon. Those high prices cut deep into the pockets of Americans that summer and generated enough public outcry to force Congress to act….Now American families and businesses are once again facing $4 gasoline, as I said, $5 the first of June; and we're no further ahead in expanding American energy production than we were 3 years ago. That's outrageous and unacceptable. The House has already passed two bills to increase offshore energy production, create jobs, and lower prices. Today, we will vote on a third offshore drilling bill, H.R. 1231, in order to reverse the moratorium that President Obama has single-handedly placed on new offshore drilling. This bill requires the administration to move forward with offshore lease sales in areas containing the most oil and natural gas.”
Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) also supported the bill: “…As record high gas prices are causing American families to suffer in their daily routines, like buying groceries at the grocery store and driving to work each morning, it is inexcusable that this liberal administration continues to turn its back on the problem. Just last month, Americans spent around $368 on average just to fill their tanks, about the same amount a family would spend on groceries for 2 weeks. Yet the Democrats' only solution to the pain at the pump is to raise taxes on domestic oil producers, and they've already admitted that it will not lower gas prices. I fully support…[the bill], a real proposal which would lift the president's ban on offshore drilling and get the ball rolling on domestic energy production. I urge my Democrat colleagues to pass this bill because both our cars and our economy should be running on American resources, not on their empty promises. Pass this bill to create American jobs and a strong American economy.
Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) opposed the bill: “ It's unconscionable that we're voting today to expand offshore drilling even before stronger safeguards can be put in place, to mandate new leasing off the economically important coastlines of southern California, Alaska, and the entire eastern seaboard, each time these waters are open to drilling. And it's cynical to claim that more drilling will relieve high gas prices. More drilling only means more profits for the oil industry, not lower costs at the pump. We all know oil companies hardly need a boost right now. They're receiving billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies and reaping record profits. On top of that, the oil industry is already drilling more than ever before. For example, offshore production has increased by more than a third in the last 2 years, and the gulf produced 1.6 million barrels of oil per day last year, an all-time record. Yet, despite all that drilling, gas prices continue to soar, and the reason is clear: More drilling here in the U.S. has little effect on the global oil market.”
Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) also opposed the bill: “H.R. 1231 would force the Interior Department to open up vast swaths of the American coastline to drilling, including California and all of the Mid and North Atlantic. It is incomprehensible that the majority would take such a reckless radical step before we even know the full cost of the gulf spill. Let's be smart. This bill in particular represents something worse than the pre-spill mentality; it represents an alternative reality: facts evidently don't matter. Never mind the fact that, 1 year ago, 11 workers died in a Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. Never mind that about 60 died over the last decade. Never mind the fact that, prior to the gulf spill, offshore drilling in U.S. waters was four times more deadly than drilling of the same operations, the same kinds of operations by the same companies elsewhere in the world, even in the inhospitable territory of the North Sea….No, thank you. I prefer to live in the real world where facts matter, and where this bill could have devastating real-world consequences. I urge my colleagues, remember the spill. Vote down this bill.”
The House passed this bill by a vote of 243-179. Voting “yea” were 222 Republicans and 21 Democrats. 170 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 9 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation requiring the Secretary of the Interior to auction leases for oil and gas drilling in the most oil-rich regions of the Outer Continental Shelf.