No New Drilling Act Introduced In House

Over the past couple weeks we’ve seen a range of reactions to the BP Deepwater Disaster that is still unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico. There’s BP’s response, for instance, which was to act quickly and decisively — to limit the company’s fiscal liability and the damage to its image. As staggeringly greed-driven and catastrophic as BP’s response has been, it is, sadly, not alone in its environmentally callous ways.

Thankfully there are some politicians still capable of critical thought who have taken the right lessons from this disaster — and now a few brave House Representatives have even introduced legislation that would stop new drilling projects off of our shores altogether.

The award for sheer lunacy absolutely has to go to the 28% of Republicans who told a pollster that they were more likely to support offshore drilling as a result of the BP Deepwater Disaster.

And if you thought the Obama Administration’s response has been more reasonable — halting all new permits until we get to the bottom of this catastrophe and figure out just what went wrong — then you clearly have not heard that the Minerals Management Service — which is part of the Dept. of the Interior and responsible for issuing permits for offshore oil drilling — has approved 27 new permits since April 20th, the day the Deepwater Horizon exploded.

The worst part? According to the Center for Bioligical Diversity, 26 of those permits were given the same exemptions from environmental review as the Deepwater Horizon. The really morally if not politically untenable part? Two of those permits with no environmental review were awarded to… wait for it… BP.

The Kerry-Lieberman climate bill, which is supposedly going to be released at long last tomorrow, contains provisions that would expand offshore drilling, presumably as a way to entice Big Oil not to work to kill the bill. But the Gulf oil spill has changed that political calculus somewhat. The Hill is reporting that new protections have been put in place to allow coastal states to veto any new drilling within 75 miles of their border, even if it’s technically not off of that state’s own shores.

But several House Representatives from coastal states aren’t willing to settle for any new drilling off their coasts period. Reps. Kathy Castor (D-FL), John Garamendi (D-CA), and Frank Pallone (D-NJ) have introduced the No New Drilling Act (H.R. 5248) in the House, which would prohibit any new expansion of offshore drilling along the U.S.’s coastlines.

Similarly, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has dropped his support for an offshore drilling project he himself championed at one time, saying, “I see on TV the birds drenched in oil, the fishermen out of work, the massive oil spill and oil slick destroying our precious ecosystem. That will not happen here in California.”

Anyone who tells you that it’s somehow unpatriotic to limit offshore drilling clearly is not armed with the facts (not that the facts would likely sway them, anyway). Take a look at this US Energy Information Administration graphic that shows the miniscule percentage of domestically-produced oil we get from offshore drilling, oil that the EIA estimates would only lower gas prices by about three cents by 2030, and then try to defend why it’s worth even the minimal risk that we’ll lose a natural resource as vital as the entire Gulf of Mexico.

Image credit: Sean Gardner/Greenpeace

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