House passes bill to increase offshore energy projects

 

The House on Thursday passed a bill to expand energy production on federal lands.

Passage of the measure on a 229-185 vote is part of the House GOP's focus this week on boosting domestic energy production as a means of lowering gas prices.

ADVERTISEMENT
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), the bill's sponsor, said the conflict in Iraq demonstrated the need to reduce American reliance on foreign oil.

"The current turmoil in Iraq has already caused the price of gasoline to increase, and it serves as an important reminder of why we need to increase production here at home," Hastings said. "The best way to protect ourselves from price spikes caused by international conflicts is to increase the production of American energy resources."

The legislation would require the secretary of Interior to conduct oil and natural gas lease sales that were delayed by the Obama administration, including off the coasts of Virginia and South Carolina.

Additionally, it would create an undersecretary of Energy, Land and Minerals within the Department of Interior to oversee offshore and onshore energy projects. The undersecretary would be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

Another provision in the bill would require the Obama administration to hold annual lease sales in the areas of the Alaskan National Petroleum Reserve with the most oil and natural gas resources.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, argued the bill did not address the true source of high gasoline prices. He noted that the House GOP already passed similar legislation last summer.

"So many people have heard about Christmas in July. We now have a new tradition here, which is Groundhog Day in June for energy bills, in a faux sort of attempt to pretend we really care about the extortionate prices that people are paying because of Big Oil in the United States and speculation on Wall Street," DeFazio said.

On Wednesday, the House passed a bill authored by Senate contender Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) that would expedite applications for liquefied natural gas exports. 

The third energy measure passed earlier this week would eliminate the requirement that oil and gas pipelines crossing the U.S. borders with Mexico or Canada obtain presidential permits.