House panel passes bill to boost drilling on federal land, offshore
The House Natural Resources Committee passed a bill Wednesday aimed at boosting oil and natural gas drilling on federal land, as well as offshore.
The bill, the Strengthening the Economy with Critical Untapped Resources to Expand American Energy Act — or SECURE American Energy Act — passed 19-14, with nearly all Republicans in support and all Democrats opposing.
The legislation would provide for Alaska and Atlantic Coast states to take shares of revenue from future offshore oil drilling in those areas, end the president’s authority to withdraw offshore areas for drilling and require all planned offshore drilling rights sales to occur.
On federal land, it would allow states to take over permitting and oversight authority for drilling on federal lands within their borders, which Republicans said would remove unnecessary federal red tape.
“The SECURE American Energy Act provides a multifaceted approach to improving access and management of our nation’s valuable energy sources,” Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), chairman of the panel’s land and minerals subcommittee, said in a hearing Tuesday.
Democrats said the bill would remove necessary protections, like those for marine mammals and birds, while ignoring and exacerbating climate change.
“This bill does nothing to solve the real energy problems we’re facing today,” Rep. Alan Lowenthal (Calif.), the minerals subpanel’s top Democrat, said at the hearing.
The committee rejected numerous Democratic amendments, including ones that would to require a 1,500-foot setback from homes and businesses for gas wells, extending a moratorium on offshore drilling near Florida and requiring that states overseeing federal-land drilling consult with American-Indian tribes for their decisions.
Rep. Garret Graves (La.) was the only Republican to vote against the bill. He said he supports its policies, but would refuse to vote unless it allowed Louisiana to get a higher share of revenue from offshore drilling fees than it does currently.
“I regretfully am going to be voting against this legislation, despite the fact that I think it brings good energy policy to the table, in terms of addressing jobs,” Graves said.
“I think it is disgusting that we’re not addressing this,” he added.