The legislation, H.R. 2021, would prevent the EPA from regulating emissions from any vessel that services offshore drilling operations as part of the drilling permit process. Waxman and others say the provision will result in more air pollution and could affect many coastal states.

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) noted that the White House on Tuesday said it opposes the bill in part because of the provision.

"The administration opposes H.R. 2021, because it would curtail the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to help ensure that domestic oil production on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) proceeds safely, responsibly, and with opportunities for efficient stakeholder input," a White House Statement of Administration Policy on the bill says.


The Republican legislation would also require permits for offshore exploration to be decided within six months.

The bill is perceived as an effort to ease the permitting process for Shell.

"Shell Oil company has spent five years of time and $3 billion of money trying to drill one well in the Arctic Ocean," Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said. "All this bill does is set up a fair procedure."

After general debate on the bill, members started considering amendments shortly before 4 p.m.

—This story was updated at 4:33 p.m.