Senators seek state revenue sharing for offshore drilling

Greg Nash

Republican senators from coastal areas introduced a bill Wednesday to increase the amount of money states get from offshore drilling.

The senators have been advocating for the proposal for years, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that their bill would come up for a floor vote within the year.

{mosads}The federal government currently keeps almost all of the revenue from fees and royalties for oil and natural gas drilling on the outer continental shelf. The only exceptions are wells in a certain small area in the Gulf of Mexico.

The senators’ bill would increase the revenue sharing in the Gulf and apply it to the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, where there is currently no drilling in federal waters.

“By law, money from revenue sharing goes towards rebuilding a healthy coast,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said in a statement, referring to a Louisiana law regarding oil revenues. “Strengthening Louisiana’s coastline not only keeps our economy strong and families safe from future storm surge — but it’s also critical to protecting our nation’s energy infrastructure.”

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said the legislation ”ensures equitable distribution of revenues derived from energy exploration, equity that is long overdue.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is also on board as a sponsor and said she’s committed to bringing the bill up for a vote in her committee.

Democrats and the Obama administration have generally opposed revenue sharing, saying that the offshore oil and gas belong to all Americans, so it should go into national, not local, coffers.

Cassidy and other Republicans tried to get the revenue sharing provisions into a wide-ranging Senate energy bill earlier this year. But Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), fearing that it would lead to offshore drilling near Florida’s coast, blocked quick passage of the bill until Republicans agreed not to hold a vote on the amendment.

The bill introduced Wednesday would also provide state revenue sharing for offshore wind energy, and streamline the approval process for wind, solar and geothermal energy projects on federal land.


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