Congress Offshore Drilling Bill Dims

Wednesday, October 25, 2006
According to Reuters, the U.S. House of Representatives will not accept legislation passed by the Senate that keeps most U.S. Atlantic and Pacific waters off-limits to energy exploration, a key U.S. Republican lawmaker. Comments by Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, chairman of the House Energy Committee, indicate dimming prospects that the energy legislation will pass Congress this year.

House Republicans will not concede to Senate lawmakers' calls to accept an offshore drilling bill that expands energy exploration only narrowly, he said. Barton's comments to reporters at the Independent Petroleum Association of America's annual meeting signal tough going for offshore drilling legislation once Congress returns for a short voting session after the Nov. 7 mid-term elections. If House and Senate negotiators can't reach a deal, the issue will be dead until Congress returns next year. The Senate has passed a bill to open 8.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and natural gas drilling, but related legislation passed by the House allows drilling in most U.S. Atlantic and Pacific waters where energy exploration is now banned. The two bills would have to be reconciled before they could be approved by Congress as a whole. Barton said the Senate bill is unsuitable because it merely restates the requirements of an upcoming 2007-2012 offshore leasing auction to be held by the U.S. Interior Department, which will proceed even without action by Congress. According to the report, a compromise offered to Senate negotiators that would allow states, particularly along the East Coast, to opt into drilling off their coastlines.

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