GOP offshore drilling proposal triggers debate

GOP offshore drilling proposal triggers debate
© Getty Images

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 GosarFive takeaways from a bracing day of Jan. 6 testimony Protesters shut down Greene-Gaetz Jan. 6 event Cheney calls Gaetz, Greene DOJ protest a 'disgrace' 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.


“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 BishopGOP's Westerman looks to take on Democrats on climate change House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee | McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce | EPA joins conservative social network Parler 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.


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 TrumpFormer New York state Senate candidate charged in riot Trump called acting attorney general almost daily to push election voter fraud claim: report GOP senator clashes with radio caller who wants identity of cop who shot Babbitt 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 LowenthalShakespeare gets a congressional hearing in this year's 'Will on the Hill' Face mask PPE is everywhere now — including the ocean Native Americans urge Deb Haaland to help tackle pollution in communities of color 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 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 ZinkeWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Biden launches blitz for jobs plan with 'thank you, Georgia' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court sets in motion EPA ban on pesticide linked to developmental issues | Trump Interior Secretary Zinke files to run for Congress, again | Senate passes bipartisan B water infrastructure bill 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.