Obama’s drilling proposal sparks battle among Senate Dems

Obama’s drilling proposal sparks battle among Senate Dems

President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaPanetta on transgender ban: Trump should pay the military a visit White House declines to apologize to Boy Scouts Boy Scouts chief apologizes for Trump’s Jamboree address MORE’s decision to open the nation’s coastline to offshore drilling has set up a fracas with Senate Democrats.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), one of the leading Senate opponents of offshore drilling, has blasted Obama’s plan.
 
But Virginia Democratic Sens. Jim Webb and Mark WarnerMark WarnerBoth sides of the aisle agree — telemedicine is the future Google announces million initiative for displaced workers Overnight Tech: House GOP wants to hear from tech CEOs on net neutrality | SEC eyes cryptocurrency | Elon Musk, Zuckerberg trade jabs over AI | Trump says Apple opening three plants in US MORE are on board, urging Obama to move quickly to open mid-Atlantic shores for oil and gas exploration.
 
“Drilling off the Virginia coast would endanger many of New Jersey’s beaches and vibrant coastal economies,” Lautenberg said in a statement.
 

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“Giving Big Oil more access to our nation’s waters is really a Kill, Baby, Kill policy: it threatens to kill jobs, kill marine life and kill coastal economies that generate billions of dollars,” he added. “Offshore drilling isn’t the solution to our energy problems, and I will fight this policy and continue to push for 21st century clean energy solutions.”

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Robert MenendezRobert MenendezBipartisan group, Netflix actress back bill for American Latino Museum The Mideast-focused Senate letter we need to see Taiwan deserves to participate in United Nations MORE (N.J.) also took a strong stance against Obama’s proposal Wednesday.

“I have let the administration know that offshore drilling is a non-starter for me,” Menendez told The Newark Star-Ledger. “A spill in Virginia ends up in Cape May, New Jersey.”

Obama has proposed opening a vast stretch of the Atlantic coast, from the northern tip of Delaware to mid-Florida, to offshore drilling.
 
Webb and Warner pushed the administration to act in a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in January.
 
"We would urge you to promptly commence these steps in order to ensure that the Virginia lease sale is conducted in a manner that is timely and consistent with the interests of the environment and our national security," the lawmakers wrote.
 
Sen. Bill NelsonBill NelsonGOP senator forces Dems to vote on single payer Gore wishes Mikulski a happy birthday at 'Inconvenient Sequel' premiere Honda recalls 1.2 million cars over battery fires MORE, a Democrat from Florida, also raised concerns over how the new drilling proposal might affect military exercises in his state. 
 
“I’ve talked many times to Secretary Salazar and told him if they drilled too close to Florida’s beaches they’d be risking the state’s economy and the environment,” Nelson said in a statement. “I believe this plan shows they heeded that concern. 
 
“Now I need to hear from Defense Secretary Robert Gates,” Nelson added. “And I want him to look me in the eye and assure me that this plan will not compromise national security by interfering with the unfettered space we have for training and testing our most sophisticated military weapons systems.”
 
Republican critics, such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, have also put pressure on Obama to develop the nation’s energy resources.
 
Environmentalists argue the potential energy gains are not worth the expected impact on beaches and marine life.
Lautenberg argues that an oil spill could create severe ecological damage within a 500-mile radius — putting the New Jersey shoreline in danger. He said the beaches and beach towns of New Jersey generate about $50 billion in economic activity every year and employ 500,000 people.


The government estimates that 130 million barrels of oil and 1.14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas may lie off Virginia’s shores.
The Bush administration crafted a plan in 2008 to begin leasing an oil and gas patch off Virginia’s coast beginning in 2011. The Virginia senators contacted Salazar after progress on the lease slowed.
 
Warner applauded the plan Obama announced Tuesday.
 
"This is good news and a positive step forward as we work to expand our nation's domestic energy production,” Warner said in a statement.
 
“Moving forward on the mid-Atlantic off-shore proposal will provide an opportunity to determine the scope of our region's off-shore energy resources, the economic viability of accessing those resources, and the potential impacts on our environmental and national security priorities.”
 
In September, two Democratic senators voted for an amendment sponsored by Sen. David VitterDavid VitterOvernight Energy: Trump set to propose sharp cuts to EPA, energy spending Former La. official tapped as lead offshore drilling regulator Former senator who crafted chemicals law to lobby for chemicals industry MORE (R-La.) that would have prohibited delaying the Bush administration’s Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. They were Sens. Mark BegichMark BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (Alaska) and Ben Nelson (Neb.).
 
Fifty-four Democrats and two independents voted to support the Obama administration’s suspension of the plan.
 
A lobbyist for an environmental group said that liberals such as Sens. Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerTime is now to address infrastructure needs Tom Steyer testing waters for Calif. gubernatorial bid Another day, another dollar for retirement advice rip-offs MORE (D-Calif.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersLive Coverage: Senate edges close to passing scaled-down ObamaCare repeal Sanders: Senate healthcare fight 'totally bananas' Overnight Defense: Military won't lift transgender ban until Trump sends directions | House passes national security spending | Russian sanctions bill heads to Trump MORE (I-Vt.) would raise objections to Obama’s proposal.
 
Democratic senators from Washington, Oregon and Rhode Island have also voiced objections to offshore drilling in the past.


Click here to see a map that describes the Alaska offshore drilling strategy

Click here to see a map that describes the Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico drilling strategies


This story was posted at 12:35 p.m. and updated at 1:52 p.m. and 6:47 p.m.