This vote was on an amendment that would have prevented new oil exploration that Republicans wanted to establish off the coast of California.
Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) offered the amendment to a Republican bill that would open vast new stretches of publicly owned land to energy exploration. One of the areas that would be newly opened is an area in the waters near Santa Barbara and Ventura, California.
Rep. Capps, whose Congressional district includes these areas, said her constituents were not interested in allowing offshore drilling that could jeopardize the environment, wildlife, and the economy in the area. She noted that officials from a nearby Air Force Base had also expressed concern that drilling could conflict with military operations in the area. Her amendment would have deleted the section of the Republican bill that opened the area to oil exploration. It also would have deleted a provision giving coastal states a share of revenue from sales of the new offshore leases.
“I find it ironic that some of the same people in this body who decry an overarching federal government seem to have no qualms about forcing new drilling upon a local population which is directly against its wishes,” Rep. Capps said. “This heavy-handed, know-it-all approach rubber-stamps destructive drilling, cuts out environmental reviews, and closes down the public input. Might be good policy for oil companies; but it's bad policy for my constituents, and it's bad energy policy for our nation.”
Republicans argued that the drilling could be done in an environmentally friendly way that would minimize the risk of an oil spill. Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) said oil companies would use infrastructure that is already in place to access the oil. This new energy source would be important at a time when gasoline prices are rising and most petroleum is imported, he said.
“The underlying bill is a drill-smart plan that directly focuses on those offshore areas where there are known resources. That includes the vast resources of southern California,” Rep. Hastings said. “This amendment would lock away significant resources that belong to the American people. It would keep our country shackled to the foreign powers upon whom we rely for oil and gas imports. It would also hinder our nation's energy security.”
Rep. Capps’ amendment was defeated by a vote of 160-267. Voting “yea” were 158 Democrats, including a majority of progressives, and 2 Republicans. Voting “nay” were 237 Republicans and 30 Democrats. As a result, the House moved forward with Republican legislation that would open areas off the coast of California to oil exploration.