This was a vote on final passage of legislation requiring the Secretary of the Interior to approve or deny offshore oil drilling leases within 30 days of receiving an application. If the secretary failed to act on a permit within 60 days, it would be “deemed approved.” In addition, the bill prohibited litigators who successfully sue the federal government over oil drilling projects from receiving attorneys’ fees.
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. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) urged support for the bill: “…Families and businesses across the country are struggling with skyrocketing gasoline prices that in many places have already passed $4 per gallon. Everyday activities, such as commuting to work or taking the kids to soccer practice, have strained family budgets, forcing Americans to make tough choices and sacrifices. Unfortunately, rising gasoline prices are not the only energy crisis currently hurting our country. For over a year, communities along the Gulf of Mexico have suffered through a real and then de facto moratorium on offshore drilling imposed by the Obama administration….The bill being considered by the House today will help address all of these concerns. It will put the people and businesses along the gulf back to work by requiring the administration to act on new drilling permits in a timely manner. For Americans across the country who are suffering from rising gasoline prices, this bill acts now to expand American production to help lower costs.
Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) also supported the bill: “For heaven's sake, there's a reason we have a structural increase in the cost of our energy. It is, very simply, that we're constraining the output of oil. So let's get on it. Let's finally start producing oil in this country, and let's become energy independent once and for all. Louisiana is being hurt in two ways…. [Economist] Dr. Joseph Mason from Louisiana State University, from my home State, said that we're looking at a loss of 36,137 jobs over an 18-month period out of the gulf coast alone.”
Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) opposed the bill: “This bill is a dangerous solution in search of a really nonexistent problem. Since the implementation of new safety and environmental standards in June of last year, the [Interior] Department has added staff, improved its review, and has issued 52 shallow water drilling permits….Ironically, the enactment of H.R. 1229 [the underlying bill] could halt this progress. This bill could hamper new permits being issued or stop new permits altogether because the Department might be forced to deny permits if the safety and environmental reviews are not completed in the arbitrary 60 days…. In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the principles guiding offshore drilling should be smart and safe. If H.R. 1229 is enacted, the guiding principles will be fast and loose. This is the wrong response to the largest oil spill in U.S. waters. We should not rush to allow drilling permits to be deemed approved without the appropriate safety and environmental checks. We should not provide blanket extensions to existing leases. We should not close the doors of the courthouse to American citizens. We should not pass this bill.”
Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) also opposed the bill: “This Republican proposal is very poor public policy. And as a member who represents a community that is dependent on the gulf coast's economy, frankly, it is appalling for my Republican friends to press to eliminate safety standards on oil companies who want to continue to drill and come closer and closer to our beautiful beaches. Really, it is beyond the pale. And I have to ask, did my colleagues not learn anything from this disaster? In our economy on Florida's gulf coast, we depend on clean water and clean beaches, and when you bring up a bill like this, it feels like a direct challenge to our economic recovery.…The hotels and motels on the beach, the seafood industry, all the mom and pop shops who are dependent on the tourism industry, we are still struggling to come back.”
The House passed this bill by a vote of 263-163. All 235 Republicans present and 28 Democrats voted “yea.” 163 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation requiring the Secretary of the Interior to approve or deny offshore oil drilling leases within 30 days of receiving an application.