This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) that would have postponed oil drilling at a site off Virginia’s coast until the Secretary of Defense certified that would not impede naval or other military operations. This amendment was offered to legislation requiring the Secretary of the Interior to conduct oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and offshore Virginia that had been cancelled or delayed by the Obama administration.
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, 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.
Connolly urged support for his amendment: “The Department of Defense issued a report which stated that 78 percent of the area [where drilling would take place]…is currently used by the Navy for equipment testing, practicing with live ordnance, underwater training, and other critical operations….As you know, Norfolk is the largest naval base in America. It is critical for our national security and has beneficial side effects, obviously, for the regional economy. But billions of dollars have been invested in Norfolk and in that test bed area. Perhaps it is possible for offshore oil exploration or wind energy development to be compatible with continued naval operations. That is why we asked for certification. But if energy development forced the Navy to relocate, our national security would suffer, preparedness would suffer, and billions of dollars of extra cost in federal expenditures would be incurred.…This amendment ensures that energy development would not cripple naval operations by simply requiring the President with the Secretary of Defense to certify that moving forward with Lease Sale 220 won't impede naval operations and harm national security.”
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) opposed the amendment: “While I appreciate what the gentleman is trying to accomplish, the underlying bill already protects the Defense Department's responsibilities in the Outer Continental Shelf of Virginia. So this amendment is totally unnecessary. Because preserving the working relationship between the Department of Defense and the Department of the Interior is of great importance to the Virginia congressional delegation and to the Natural Resources Committee, H.R. 1230 already ensures the mutual goals of national security and energy independence by requiring that the lease sale be conducted with stipulations on surface use, as well as additional requirements to make certain that the leases issued in this area would not impact defense operations….Virginians, along with their Governor, both Democratic Senators, and a majority of the congressional delegation here in Congress, and the city council of Virginia Beach, off of which much of the development would take place, do support offshore leasing and development because they understand it can bring much-needed jobs and revenues to the state.”
Connolly replied: “I thank my friend from Colorado for his remarks. But, frankly, if he is so certain of the protections contained in this legislation, then surely this extra special amendment to make sure that Virginia is protected would not find objection on the other side of the aisle.”
The House rejected this amendment by a vote of 176-240. Voting “yea” were 171 Democrats and 5 Republicans. 231 Republicans and 9 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected an amendment that would have postponed oil drilling at a site off Virginia’s coast until the Secretary of Defense certified that would not impede naval or other military operations.