House votes to expand offshore oil-and-gas leases

The bill is similar to GOP legislation passed by the House last year, and responds to a five-year oil and gas lease sales plan that Republicans say shuts out potentially productive areas off the Atlantic and Pacific coastline. In Thursday debate, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said the president had a chance to expand lease sales, but instead put forward a restrictive plan that will hurt U.S. energy development.

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"[H]e went out of his way to shut down this opportunity by putting forth a new five-year offshore leasing plan that locks up 85 percent of our offshore areas," he said. "The plan includes no new drilling, which results in no new American jobs.

"In fact, it includes the lowest number of lease sales ever offered in an offshore lease plan. Mr. Chairman, that's the worst record since President Jimmy Carter's."

Democrats argued that energy companies have access to enough offshore areas right now, and that President Obama's plan has not limited energy production or led to higher gas prices, as Republicans have claimed.

"[T]he premise that somehow by putting more leases out there — with no requirement for them to perform — the price of gas will drop is absolutely untrue," said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.). "We all know that's untrue. The American consumers know it's untrue."

Obama has warned he would veto the bill, and the Democratic Senate is not expected to touch it.

On Thursday, the House approved an amendment that would expand an oil revenue sharing cap for Gulf Coast states from $500 million to $1 billion, something that Gulf state members supported.

On Friday morning, the House disposed of the last four amendments to the bill, from:

— DeFazio, prohibiting offshore oil-and-gas leases in Bristol Bay off the coast of Alaska. Failed, 183-235.

— Paul Broun (R-Ga.), requiring all claims against offshore lease activities be filed within 60 days and resolved within 180 days, and imposing a "loser pays" requirement on entities filing suit. Passed, 217-202.

— Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), ensuring that no portion of the bill affects the rights of any state to prohibit the management of lands beneath navigable waters within its boundaries. Failed, 209-210.

— Lois Capps (D-Calif.), blocking oil-and-gas lease sales in southern California. Failed, 176-241.