GOP Launches Push to Expand Offshore Drilling


Photo: US Coast Guard

Remember that epic disaster that killed 11 people, soiled miles of coastline around the Gulf of Mexico, wiped out thousands of jobs, damaged the ecosystem there in ways that we're only just beginning to understand, and made residents from Louisiana to Florida sick? If you do, perhaps you should remind your Republican congressman -- because it doesn't seem like he does. See, the GOP is pushing three different bills that seek not only to expand the area permitted for offshore drilling, but -- and I'm not kidding about this -- loosen current regulations on an industry that was just responsible for a 210,000,000 gallon oil spill. David Goldston of the NRDC has a good rundown revealing what each of these three bills would do, so head over there to get the skinny. For now, here's the Cliff Notes version:

H.R. 1231 - This is the worst of the three, and would mandate an opening of coastal waters from drilling that's ludicrously large in scope -- as in opening up Alaska, the Eastern seaboard from Maine to North Carolina, the coast of Southern California, and beyond. It's ridiculous. And it doesn't just open the areas to drilling -- it mandates that the government dole out leases to the oil industry. Goldston writes that "the bill does this by mandating that at least half the unleased area in each of those regions be put up for lease sales each and every time the government puts outer continental shelf territory up for lease."

And it prevents government from preventing the sale of offshore leases, even if it has a good reason to do so: "The bill ought to be called "A bill to prevent any president or other official or the public from ever deciding not to drill for oil everywhere, no matter what the facts on the ground are." Not so pithy, perhaps, but it's what the bill actually does."

H.R. 1230 - This bill would force the government to conduct three lease sales next year, both in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Virginia. The bill also blocks the environmental review process currently in place to prevent unsafe operations.

H.R. 1229 - Finally, this bill "sets an arbitrary time limit of 30 days for reviewing drilling permit applications and grants automatic approvals if no action has been taken within 60 days," according to Goldston. Precisely what we needed -- a shorter period of time to determine whether a drilling operation will be safe.

The complete lack of any sort of political response to that travesty was and is bad enough. The fact that the GOP now wants to drill even harder than before -- and is falsely claiming that drilling would lower gas prices to get its way -- is even worse, and it makes the whole fallout to the BP disaster just plain surreal. I'm beginning to think that I personally hallucinated the entire Gulf oil spill.

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More on the BP Spill
Why the BP Spill Hasn't Invigorated Environmentalism
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