Cheers, jeers for Obama’s drilling push

The senior House Republican leading the charge for a major expansion of offshore oil drilling alleged Saturday that President Obama’s new plan for speeding up development is far too modest.

“One weekend address announcing minor policy tinkering, while positive, does not erase the Administration’s long job-destroying record of locking-up America’s energy resources,” said Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, in a statement.

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President Obama used his weekly address to tout steps aimed at accelerating oil drilling, including as a task force to expedite permitting for projects off Alaska’s coast; annual lease sales in Alaska’s onshore National Petroleum Reserve; and extension of leases in the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska’s coast that were affected by restrictions imposed after the BP oil spill.

The House this month passed a trio of bills Hastings authored that would mandate a major expansion of offshore drilling and set firm deadlines for the Interior Department to act on offshore drilling permit requests.

Hastings called those bills “real action to produce real American energy.” But he said that Obama is starting to come around to the GOP’s views. “It’s ironic that while the White House and Congressional Democrats strongly criticized these efforts, President Obama is now taking tiny baby steps in our direction.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) praised Obama’s actions, calling them consistent with House Democrats’ goals.

“The President is putting into action ideas from the Democrats’ Increasing American Energy Production Now Act, sponsored by Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia, which is part of our ‘Make It In America: Clean Energy Jobs Now’ initiative. This initiative will ensure safe and responsible drilling, protect taxpayers, and lower prices at the pump,” Pelosi said in a statement.

“Our energy plan eliminates breaks for Big Oil; encourages oil companies to drill on the public land they already control; increases safe oil production in Alaska and in the Gulf; and uses the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to increase the oil supply and combat gasoline price hikes from Wall Street speculation,” she said.