Senate continuing resolution provides new money for drilling inspections

Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have raised objections to the provision, arguing it would further delay offshore drilling permitting. But the Interior Department has said the extension is necessary to adequately review exploration plans and to ensure that projects meet the tougher standards imposed in the aftermath of the Gulf oil spill.

BOEMRE spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz said in an e-mail, “Thirty [days] … was never a sufficient time frame to conduct these reviews, and in light of the new safety and environmental protection requirements and policies the current time limitation is even less appropriate.”

A $1.1 trillion Senate omnibus appropriations bill, which was pulled by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) last week because it lacked support among Senate Republicans, included an increase in fees imposed on oil companies for inspections. The Senate continuing resolution does not include the increase in fees.

The Senate CR also includes language sought by Reid and other Nevada lawmakers that ensures counties receive a 25 percent share of royalties and other revenues from geothermal projects.
 
A sweeping 2005 energy law allowed the revenue-sharing, but a fiscal 2010 Interior Department spending law had reversed it.

The continuing resolution would fund the government through the beginning of March.

Ben Geman contributed.