House passes legislation to reverse Obama’s offshore drilling moratorium

Amanda Carey Contributor
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The House passed the Reversing President Obama’s Offshore Moratorium Act Thursday, 243-179. Twenty-one Democrats voted in favor of the bill, and all but nine Republicans supported it.

The bill, which was condemned by the White House Wednesday, requires that the areas in the Outer Continental Shelf with the most oil and natural gas be included in the 2012-2017 leasing plan the administration is developing. It also sets the U.S. production goal at 3 billion barrels of oil per day by 2027.

Republicans are also framing the bill as one that will bring in $800 million in revenue over ten years, and reduce imports of foreign oil by almost one-third.

In a “Statement of Official Policy,” the Obama administration said the bill would interfere with the Department of Interior’s process and authority to determine which areas are ready for drilling.

But according to Republican Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington, the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee who introduced the legislation, the bill also create 1.2 million jobs.

“Make no mistake,” said Hastings in a statement, “this is just as much of a job creating bill as it is an energy creating bill. The positive impacts of 1.2 million jobs and an additional 3 million barrels per day of American oil production will make a very real difference.”

While the House passed the full bill, a number of Democratic amendments were rejected. Among them were amendments that would have required oil companies to disclose bonuses, that would have increased royalty payments to the federal government and that would have permanently banned drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

The bill’s passage comes just after the House passed another bill Wednesday titled “Putting the Gulf Back to Work Act,” which establishes a 30-day timeframe in which Interior Secretary Ken Salazar can act on permit requests.

In March 2010, one month before the BP oil spill, President Obama proposed expanding offshore drilling. That changed after the spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the White House implemented a moratorium. While the moratorium was officially lifted in October 2010, the administration has been harshly criticized by lawmakers and industry officials for not slowly beginning to re-issue deepwater permits until March 2011.