Senate Interior Dept. spending bill to block West Coast drilling

The Interior Department spending bill slated for markup Thursday in the Senate Appropriations Committee will re-impose oil-and-gas drilling bans off the Pacific Coast that lapsed after decades in 2008, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said.

Obama administration offshore leasing plans do not contemplate oil-and-gas development off the coasts of California, Oregon or Washington.

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But Feinstein — who chairs the subcommittee that crafts Interior spending bills — said in the Capitol Tuesday that the measure would re-instate the bans to provide extra protection.

Offshore drilling bans that Congress had long imposed on the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts were allowed to lapse in the fall of 2008 during a feverish election-year fight over oil-and-gasoline prices that hit record highs that summer. Then-President George W. Bush removed overlapping White House bans that summer as well.

But the measure that Feinstein has inserted into the fiscal year 2011 spending bill — if successful — will be a sign that the political pendulum has swung away from expanded drilling in the wake of the BP oil spill.

Congressional drilling bans were first imposed in federal waters off the central and northern California coast in 1982, and were later expanded to include southern California and the coasts of Washington and Oregon.

Update: The markup has been delayed.

This post was updated at 4:27 p.m.