Energy

White House slams bill that would expand oil production

Amanda Carey Contributor

The Obama administration on Wednesday slammed a House bill that would allow oil companies to drill in at least 50 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf and open up areas in the South Atlantic for oil production.

The bill, titled, “Reversing President Obama’s Offshore Moratorium Act,” is expected to pass the House late Wednesday or Thursday. In its “Statement of Administration Policy,” the White House claimed the bill would undermine and circumvent the process by which officials currently deem areas safe to lease for drilling.

“[The bill] would require the Department of Interior (DOI) to open new areas on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to leasing without any discretion to determine which areas are actually appropriate and safe for explorations and development,” read the administration’s statement.

The statement went on to call the bill tantamount to a mandate forcing lease sales in the OCS without any input from local citizens. It did not, however, threaten a veto.

In March 2010, one month before the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration actually proposed a similar plan, indicating a willingness to allow the expansion of oil production. President Obama, however, reversed his position and implemented a moratorium on offshore drilling after the spill.

Now, the administration says it is developing a five-year plan for oil and gas production that “incorporates lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill.”

The administration’s “Statement of Official Policy,” came shortly before the House passed a bill Wednesday afternoon, titled “Putting the Gulf Back to Work Act.” The bill passed easily, with a 263-163 vote.

The bill sets a 30-day timeframe in which Interior Secretary Ken Salazar must act on drilling permits. Among other things, the legislation establishes a 30-day period for Interior to restart permits that were approved before the moratorium was put into place.