Energy

Republicans Mull Penalties For States That Ban Offshore Drilling

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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A group of House Republicans have introduced legislation that would impose fines on states that block offshore drilling, indicating the Trump administration’s priority of boosting U.S. energy production.

In a move to pressure local officials to open up their coasts to oil and gas exploration, House Republican members introduced a bill on Wednesday that would slap fines on state governments that prohibit drilling off their coasts. The legislation — an amendment to the Mineral Leasing Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act — would allow states to disapprove as much as half of proposed lease sites off their coasts. However, if they block over 50 percent, the federal government would impose fines of at least one-tenth of the revenue that would have been generated from lease sales, royalties and other income streams had the drilling been allowed.

“What we want to really convey is that when states out East, like the coastal states, are trying to prohibit development rather than facilitating it, they are not only harming the potential oil and gas development, but they’re also harming the rest of the country,” said a GOP committee staffer to The Washington Post.

Republicans made clear that the bill is subject to change. It will be discussed during the House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday.

Democrats are not as excited about the proposal, believing it could cost states millions — or even billions — in dollars for opposing offshore drilling projects.

“This bill is a ransom note in a cheap disguise,” Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona, said in a statement. Grijalva also serves as the ranking Democrat on the committee. “Penalizing states for protecting their own beaches is what you’d see in a petro-state, not in a modern democracy. The Republicans on this committee seem to think we’re here to do industry’s bidding regardless of the consequences, and until control of Congress changes, this is the best the American people can expect.”

Introduction of the bill comes after the Trump administration, led by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, has called for opening up more U.S. waters for oil and gas exploration. President Donald Trump has made U.S. energy independence a top priory since entering office. (RELATED: DNC Will No Longer Take Money From Fossil Fuel Companies) 

However, expanded offshore drilling has been met with hostility from coastal leaders.

Numerous states considered legislation that would ban oil and gas infrastructure off their shores. California — which has long restricted offshore drilling — went a step further by vowing to block any oil and gas shipments from offshore rigs through their state. New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law in April a bill that bans oil exploration in state waters within three miles of the shore.

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