GOP offshore drilling proposal triggers debate

GOP offshore drilling proposal triggers debate
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Republicans used a Natural Resources hearing Thursday to tout newly proposed legislation that would give states a larger share of royalties to incentivize them to back expanded offshore drilling.

States that do not agree to allow offshore drilling, or that propose moratoriums on it, would see their share of revenue from federal drilling drop.

Rep. Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarArizona Rep. Paul Gosar wins GOP primary  Trade negotiations mustn't short-circuit domestic debate House Republicans urge White House to support TSA giving travelers temperature checks MORE (R-Ariz.) touted the bill as a way to give states more authority, while saying they should not be able to veto lease sales.

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“While states are highly involved in the offshore lease planning process they do not have a veto over lease sales,” Gosar said at a Thursday House Natural Resources subcommittee on energy and mineral resources hearing.

 “It’s an acknowledgment that such an attempt to strand federal assets comes at the expense of the American taxpayer,” said Gosar, the subcommittee’s chairman.

Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopTrump signs major conservation bill into law Overnight Energy: House passes major conservation bill, sending to Trump | EPA finalizes rule to speed up review of industry permits House passes major conservation bill, sending it to Trump's desk MORE (R-Utah), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said the bill would be an example of federalism at its best.

The bill, which was proposed this week, would take away management of offshore drilling from the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management and place it in the hands of states.

If a coastal state chooses to expand drilling and increase production of fossil fuels, they’d get a larger portion — 60 percent — of the royalties from the lease sale.

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States opting to impose a moratorium on drilling or cuts would see their share of revenue from the federal lease sales drop dramatically.

Myron Ebell, the director of International Environmental Policy at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, testified that the bill would be a win for states opposed to offshore drilling because it would give them power to definitively say no to drilling.

“It’s the idea that if a state wants a moratorium on offshore development they can actually get it. They don’t have to apply political pressure, they can actually say we want a moratorium and here is what we are willing to pay for it,” said Ebell, a vocal champion of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTeachers union launches 0K ad buy calling for education funding in relief bill FDA head pledges 'we will not cut corners' on coronavirus vaccine Let our values drive COVID-19 liability protection MORE’s energy policy.

 Democrats criticized the proposal because of its punishments for states that opt out of expanding drilling.

 Ranking member Alan LowenthalAlan Stuart LowenthalAct now to protect our nation's birds Overnight Energy: EPA declines to regulate chemical tied to developmental damage | Democrats unveil .5T infrastructure plan | Land management bureau eases requirements for oil, gas royalty cut requests Land management bureau lessens requirements for oil and gas royalty cut requests MORE (D-Calif.) said the bill offered a “bribe” or a “shake-down.”

 “This title is a bribe for states to take public land out of the public’s hand,” he said. “Title 2 is arguably more extreme...it would allow the federal government to extort enormous sums of money from coastal states that want to protect their beaches from offshore drilling.”

He also criticized the bill for solely focusing on the use of public land for mineral extraction and not as areas for public use or tourism.

 “This discussion draft makes a clear statement that our shared public lands and waters are only worth the oil and gas that we can wring out of them, nothing else is worth anything,” said Lowenthal.

Trump touted energy independence and security during his campaign, and since taking office his administration has worked to explore ways to expand fossil fuel production.

In January, Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeTrump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senior Interior official contacted former employer, violating ethics pledge: watchdog | Ag secretary orders environmental rollbacks for Forest Service | Senate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Senior Interior official contacted former employer, violating ethics pledge: watchdog MORE announced new exploration of offshore drilling in every corner of U.S. owned waters including the Arctic Ocean.

His announcement was met with fervent opposition by most states with coastlines. They said they feared what expanded drilling might do to their tourism industries, pointing to disasters such as the 2010 BP oil spill.

In April, the Trump administration took its first steps in opening up drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Last week, Interior announced it was starting $4 trillion in construction projects to ready lease sales for 1.6 million acres in the area’s coastal plain.