This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) that would have allowed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to continue to measure air pollution from oil drilling on both onshore and offshore locations—meaning on water as well as on land.
Specifically, the underlying oil drilling pollution bill would prohibit the EPA from measuring air pollution caused by oil drilling on water. Rather, the EPA would be limited to measuring such pollution emitted on land. Speier’s amendment would have eliminated this prohibition, and allowed the EPA to continue to measure air pollution caused by oil drilling both on land and water.
Speier urged support for her amendment: “Section 2 of this bill would…force emissions from any offshore source to be measured only at the corresponding onshore location. Yes, you heard me correctly, the bill demonstrates willful ignorance of the fact that pollution is also harmful over water, not just on land….I know our philosophies differ here, but the fact is that even if we produced every drop of recoverable oil offshore today, it would only last us for 3 years at our current consumption rate. Then we would be right back where we started from without having reduced our demand on oil, except we would be about billions of dollars poorer after subsidizing the oil companies to turn the rest of offshore USA into the Gulf of Mexico. That does not sound like a deficit-cutting, jobs-creating proposal to me. H.R. 2021 [the underlying bill] purports to simply reduce the amount of time it takes to get a permit to drill, but it also gives Big Oil a free pass on having to properly account for the toxic pollution it releases on the Outer Continental Shelf. It moves the geographic point where emissions are measured from offshore, near the drilling location, to an onshore point many miles away. This change would clearly weaken public health protection for oil workers--are we interested in them?--fishermen--are we interested in them?--recreational boaters, not to mention all those who do business or make a living in our coastal communities.”
Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) opposed the amendment: “Now, if you look at the legislative history of the Clean Air Act, it is very clear in that legislative history that, as it pertains to Outer Continental Shelf sources, they were concerned about the impact onshore and the ability of onshore to attain and maintain their Clean Air National Ambient Air Quality standard requirements. And so all this legislation does is to clarify that point. We're not changing the ambient air quality standards. We're not changing the way they monitor stationary sources. We're not changing the way they monitor mobile sources. We're simply clarifying that that was the legislative history, that was the intent, and the full range of environmental protections are still in place. So I believe that this amendment is not necessary. We already have adequate monitoring in place.”
The House rejected this amendment by a vote of 176-248. Voting “yea” were 174 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 2 Republicans. 231 Republicans and 17 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected an amendment that would have allowed the Environmental Protection Agency to continue to measure air pollution from oil drilling on both onshore and offshore locations. The EPA was not immediately prohibited, however, from measuring offshore oil pollution caused by oil drilling. In order for such a prohibition to take effect, the underlying oil drilling bill would need to pass both the House and Senate. At the time the time this vote occurred, the Senate had not yet taken up legislation relating to oil drilling.