This vote was on an amendment that would have required oil companies who want to lease federally owned territory to estimate the impact an oil spill would have on the local economy.
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) offered the amendment to Republican legislation that would open vast new stretches of publicly owned territory to oil exploration. Much of the new drilling would take place offshore. Rep. Deutch noted that the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico caused environmental and economic damage that was still not fully understood. Requiring oil companies to provide an estimate of the “worst-case scenario” would ensure those companies are prepared if disaster strikes, he said.
“Opening these areas to drilling exposes the coastal communities and coastal states to significant economic impact and job losses should a large-scale oil spill like BP Deepwater Horizon occur,” Rep. Deutch said. “The federal government has a real interest in ensuring that companies applying for new oil drilling leases are aware of and are prepared for the potential economic impact and job losses resulting from a worst-case scenario spill. It only makes sense that these applications require an economic, in addition to the environmental, estimate of such disasters.”
Republicans argued that the amendment was unnecessary because regulations from the Obama Administration were likely to require worst-case scenario estimates. Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) argued that the amendment was a distraction from the need for legislation that would reduce the United States’ dependence on foreign energy sources.
“We obviously ought to be trying to be less dependent on foreign oil, and yet that debate isn't even going on. We are talking about a debate on an amendment that is simply redundant of current law,” Rep. Hastings said.
Rep. Deutch’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 188-236. Voting “yea” were 174 Democrats, including a majority of progressives, and 14 Republicans. Voting “nay” were 225 Republicans and 11 Democrats. As a result, the House moved forward with legislation to open vast new stretches of federal territory to oil exploration without requiring oil companies to estimate the environmental and economic effects of a potential oil spill.