House panel approves drilling bill as GOP leaders eye floor action in May

The panel approved the bill 27-16, largely along party lines. Two Democrats — Reps. Jim Costa (Calif.) and Dan Boren (Okla.) — voted for the bill.

“It’s been nearly six months since the Obama Administration officially ended the moratorium on deepwater drilling, and yet thousands of people in the Gulf remain out of work. This bill allows drilling to resume in a safe manner and provides certainty to businesses by implementing firm timelines for the Interior Department to act on permits,” Hastings said in a statement after the vote on the first bill.

Many Democrats attacked the bills during the markup. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), the panel’s top Democrat, said the package of bills “reflects a pre-spill mentality of speed over safety.”

“It would deem drilling permits approved after 60 days, whether or not the environmental review has been completed. We need to review the lessons from the BP spill, not lessen safety review,” Markey said.

But the committee rejected Rep. Rush Holt’s (D-N.J.) amendment that would have nixed the provision that “deems” permits approved if Interior does not act in 60 days.

Hastings disputes claims that the bill would compromise safety, noting that it codifies requirements that Interior Department regulators cannot issue permits without ensuring that federal safety, containment and spill-response standards are met.