Wednesday, September 17, 2008

House OKs Bill Allowing More Offshore Oil Drilling

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The House of Representatives on Tuesday night passed an energy bill clearing the way for more oil drilling off U.S. coasts, but not nearly as much as Republican leaders wanted.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="292" caption="The bill would expand offshore oil drilling, but not to the extent that many Republicans want."]The bill would expand offshore oil drilling, but not to the extent that many Republicans want.[/caption]

The bill was passed by a vote of 236-189.

Many Republicans opposed the bill because it would allow new oil drilling only between 50 and 100 miles offshore. Republicans generally want to allow new drilling starting 3 miles from shore.

Republicans also objected to provisions repealing tax cuts for the oil industry and what they said was a lack of incentive for states to allow drilling on their land.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, told reporters Tuesday: "The American taxpayers have been ripped off for years on offshore drilling. This bill changes that."

Before the vote, Pelosi said the bill presented a choice between "the status quo, which is preferred by Big Oil," and "change for the future to take our country in a new direction."

Fifteen Republicans voted for the largely Democrat-backed bill. Thirteen Democrats voted against it.

The Senate, meanwhile, could vote on various energy proposals, including more offshore drilling, as early as this week.

The House bill would require states to give their permission for drilling on their land. It also would offer incentives for renewable energy, require the government to release oil from its emergency reserve, and force oil companies to drill on federal lands they already lease from the government.

Democratic leaders had previously opposed Republican-led efforts to repeal a 1981 law barring most offshore drilling. But they changed course over the August recess, saying their new plans would allow some expanded drilling.

But Republicans say the House bill wouldn't expand offshore drilling enough. Before the vote, Rep. Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican, called the bill "a charade," denying it would do what its backers claim.

"This is not 'yes' to drilling. This is 'yes, but,' " he said.

"This is 'yes, but no drilling in Alaska, no drilling in the Eastern Gulf, no drilling inside 50 miles,' " Pence said. "This is 'yes, but no litigation reform that will prevent radical environmental attorneys from tying up leases even before a single shovel of dirt is turned.' "

Democrats and Republicans traded harsh words on the House floor Tuesday in the debate over the bill.

Rep. Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat, said President Bush's "idea of an energy policy is holding hands with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, embracing him with a big smooch."

When the Republicans "controlled Congress, [they] passed their own energy bill, signed into law by the president. We got into this mess," Weiner said.

But Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican, shot back that the Democrats' bill is a "sham" and a "fraud."

"This is a bill designed to ensure Democrats' re-election, not designed to ensure affordable energy in America," Hensarling said.

Hensarling also complained about how the bill was brought to the floor: "No amendments, no substitutes, no committee hearings. Is this democracy? No."

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