Senior House GOP lawmaker revives offshore drilling bill

The Natural Resources subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will hold a June 6 hearing on the bill, the committee announced.

While the legislation stood little chance of gaining traction last year in the Senate, the upper chamber contains some members who might be more keen on the idea this time around.

Virginia’s Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine introduced a bill last week authorizing drilling off their state’s coast. Other Democrats, such as Sen. Mark Begich (Alaska) and Mary Landrieu (La.), advocate for offshore drilling.

Several red-state Democrats facing tough reelection battles — such Sens. Kay Hagan (N.C.), another coastal Democrat, and Mark Pryor (Ark.) — could also grease the wheels for movement.

Still, the legislation would run into opposition from Senate Democratic leadership, should it get that far. That would make securing floor time challenging.

Hastings’s bill would require Obama to submit a new five-year leasing plan — which does not need congressional approval — running from 2015 until 2020. The current one, which the White House implemented last year, spans 2012 through 2017.

Hastings’s legislation calls for new drilling off the coasts of Virginia — in the same plot Warner and Kaine have endorsed — as well as South Carolina and Southern California. And 50 percent of areas estimated to contain at least 2.5 billion barrels of oil or 7.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas must also be made available to drilling.

The bill would maintain a ban on drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.

A draft of Obama’s offshore leasing plan included new drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, but those plans were put on hold following the April 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Republicans have called that an overreaction. They say the Obama’s leasing plan is too restrictive, contending it keeps 85 percent of offshore land off limits to drilling.

The White House says the five-year plan still offers up 75 percent of recoverable offshore reserves.

Aside from expanding drilling, the bill also would reshuffle the Interior Department’s offshore energy agencies and award federal offshore drilling royalties to all coastal states.

— This story was updated at 1:02 p.m.