House Gives Thumb's Up to Offshore Drilling After Obama Climate Push

The bill, Holt said, would permit “big oil to put drilling rigs off the Atlantic, Pacific and Alaskan coasts without enacting key drilling safety reforms that we know should be there following the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. This is bad policy through a bad process, all so this bill can enjoy the same fate that so many irresponsible drilling bills that the majority has rammed through have experienced.”

“Oil and gas doesn't need more acreage to drill on,” Holt said. “They need to drill on the leases they currently hold.”

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) characterized the drilling bill as “a mess of ‘drill-baby-drill’ slogan-over-substance dead ends.”

“Americans have a right to weigh in on government actions in their backyard,” Lowenthal said. “This bill eliminates that opportunity by mandating lease sales and gagging the National Environmental Policy Act. Americans should all be able to share in the value of their public lands. This bill, however, takes the sale of a public asset and sends much of the revenue to only a few states, instead of either paying down the deficit or spending it on programs of national benefit to all Americans.”

But Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) predicted the measure “will lower energy prices through the increased production of offshore resources.”

“This is not only a jobs bill but a path to energy independence and relief to the American consumer's pocketbook -- a concept this administration claims they support, but fails to follow through with,” he said.

On the U.S.-Mexico legislation, Hastings noted that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa signed the agreement in February 2012 but the Committee on Natural Resources didn’t receive the implementing legislation from the White House until March 19.

“Despite the Obama administration sitting on this agreement for over a year, that should not in any way downplay the importance of getting this agreement approved,” Hastings said. “This agreement is good for our economy and it's good for our American workers. Opening new acreage for energy exploration and development creates jobs, it creates more American-made energy and it helps reduce our dependence on foreign countries for our energy needs.”

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the State Department estimate the agreement will open nearly 1.5 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico. These areas are estimated to contain as much as 172 million barrels of oil and 304 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

Democrats generally expressed support for the agreement and indicated the bill likely would pass were it not for the dispute over the Dodd-Frank language. Hastings and the Republicans said it was necessary to waive the provision disclosing payments made to foreign governments because Mexico hasn’t determined decided how it will collect its royalties from energy development.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said deleting the Dodd-Frank language would “allow big oil companies to make secret deals with the Government of Mexico.”