House OKs bill allowing drilling off California coast

As I’d previewed Tuesday, the House voted 243-179 today to pass HR 1231, the “Reversing President Obama’s Offshore Moratorium Act,” which would re-open oil drilling off California’s coast and anywhere else significant deposits are found three miles offshore. As expected, no Bay Area members supported it.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters at a Capitol Hill briefing that “the American people are demanding that Congress take concrete steps to increase the supply of American energy to lower costs, to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and to create jobs. Republicans are listening, and taking action to provide much-needed relief to families and small businesses who are struggling with high prices at the pump.”

It stands little chance in the Senate, where the dominant Democrats are moving to end tax subsidies for oil companies. U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., quickly condemned the House’s vote.

“This Republican bill is a direct assault on California’s $23 billion coastal economy and nearly 390,000 jobs in tourism, fishing and recreation that would do nothing to lower gas prices for consumers,” she said. “A year after the devastating BP oil spill sparked an economic and environmental disaster on the Gulf Coast, big oil companies and their allies are now seeking to put our coast at risk – even though they already have 50 million acres of oil and gas leases that they have yet to drill and even though this is not the way to lower gas prices.”

She said the right steps to address high gas prices include releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve; cracking down on fraud and speculation; forcing oil companies to either use active leases they already have or put them back on the market; ending oil’s tax subsidies and reinvesting that money in clean energy; continuing to raise fuel economy standards; and pursuing policies to limit exports of U.S. oil.

HR 1231 is part of a three-bill package authored by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., aimed at ending the Obama Administration’s moratorium on new leases for domestic offshore oil and gas drilling.

MAPLight.org, the Berkeley-based nonprofit that studies the influence of money in politics, took a close look at Wednesday’s 263-163 vote to pass Hastings’s HR 1229, the Putting the Gulf of Mexico Back to Work Act, which would give the Interior Department a 30-day window in which to decide on Gulf of Mexico drilling applications. More than two dozen Democrats crossed the aisle to vote for the bill, while no Republicans opposed it.

MapLight.org found that interest groups supporting HR 1229 – including Republican/conservative groups, major oil and gas producers, agricultural chemical firms and pro-business associations – had given almost five times more on average to House Democrats who voted for on this bill than to Democrats who voted against it. Among all House members, interest groups supporting HR 1229 had given 6.5 times more on average to those voting for than to those voting against.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Common Tater

    Drill baby, Drill!