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House passes pro-drilling bill over Obama veto threats

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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Despite veto threats from the White House, the Republican-controlled House approved legislation on Wednesday to speed up the permitting process for oil and natural gas drilling.

The measure would also open up more federal lands for energy development.

The bill passed by a 228 to 192 margin, with seven Democrats defying the Obama administration and voting in favor.

“In recent years we have seen a boom in energy jobs and economic growth on state and private lands. I believe the only reason we haven’t seen that same dynamic growth on federal lands is because of excess regulations,” said Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado, who introduced the bill.

Republicans have been hammering the Obama administration for presiding over falling oil and gas production on federal lands, while production is booming on state and private lands. States like North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Ohio have seen huge economic gains from increased oil and gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

“We have tremendous potential for new onshore oil and natural-gas production on federal lands,” echoed Washington Republican Rep. Doc Hastings during the floor debate. “But the Obama administration is actively and purposely keeping these resources off-limits.”

The Congressional Research Service reported early this year that oil and gas production on federal lands had fallen for the second straight year in a row, and that virtually all the production increases since 2007 have occurred on state and privately held lands.

Hastings added that the Obama administration has had four years of the lowest acres of federal lands leased since 1988, and that permitting times have increased by 30 percent under Obama — reaching 307 days on average. Permitting on state lands only takes 12 to 15 days.

The White House has threatened to veto the bill, voicing concerns it would hurt the Interior Department’s ability to ensure the environment is adequately protected.

“[The bill] would reverse Administration oil and gas leasing reforms that have established orderly, open, efficient, and environmentally sound processes for energy development on public lands. Specifically, this bill would favor an arbitrary standard for leasing in open areas over leasing on the basis of greatest resource potential; limit the public’s opportunity to engage in decisions about the use of public lands; raise the potential for costly litigation, protests, and delays; strip the ability of the Department of the Interior to issue permits to drill based on important environmental reviews, clearances and tribal consultation; and curtail the use of public lands for other uses like hunting, fishing, and recreation,” the White House said in a statement.

The legislation faces grim prospects in the Senate, reports the Hill newspaper.

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