Today, the House of Representatives voted 266-149 in favor of H.R. 1230, the Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act. According to the current Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R – Ohio), this bill will help to stop policies that drive up the price of gasoline while creating jobs for Americans. According to Boehner’s website, this bill acts on what Americans want – more offshore drilling in U.S. waters, presumably to increase supply. The Speaker’s comments are in direct response to poll results published by CNN, which provides some measure of quantitative support to his statement.
Specifically, in a survey conducted last month, Americans were polled to see measure their response to a single question:
“How do you feel about increased drilling for oil and natural gas offshore in U.S. waters?”
Possible answers included “strongly favor, mildly favor, mildly oppose or strongly oppose [to] increased offshore drilling.”
After surveying 824 people using a CNN-approved process, it was found that 70% of Americans favor increased offshore drilling. It is this result that Speaker Boehner and groups including the American Energy Initiative used to help move this legislation through the house.
After today’s vote, H.R. 1230 moves on the senate where it will wait to find its fate in front of a Democrat majority. If it passes on and receives the President’s signature of approval, it will specifically direct the Secretary of the Interior to conduct offshore lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and the Outer Continental Shelf offshore of Virginia. It also streamlines the environmental impact statement process required under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) for these leases.
For more information on H.R. 1230, you can visit the following websites:
1. H.R. 1230 Congressional Research Service (CRS) bill summary
Over the past few weeks, I have written about the status of the energy and climate bill in the Senate and the recent accident in the Gulf of Mexico with the sinking of an oil rig and the resulting three leaks that are pumping oil into the gulf. These events have given rise to great doubts and great hope when it comes to our nation’s ability to successfully develop legislation that is necessary to ensure a sustainable energy future for our country, a key to our continued success as a world power.
The departure of Senator Graham from the negotiating table (see post on April 28th) lowered supporters hopes as a nail in the coffin of a bi(tri)-partisan agreement for energy and climate legislation in 2010. But, the subsequent accident in the Gulf has given the same group hope that, when faced with the real negative environmental impacts of our current dependence on oil, citizens will step up and demand that we protect our country’s precious ecosystems, wildlife, waterways, and air. They hope, perhaps realistically, that we can pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation before midterm elections get into full swing.
The oil leaks in the Gulf of Mexico have already caused irreversible damage and as the oil continues to flow, the number of casualties in the form of ecosystems and wildlife will only increase despite the commendable efforts of the United States Coast Guard. How to best stop these leaks and contain the oil is being debated, with consensus arising only with the statement that there will be significant negative environmental impact to our coastline, no matter what we do.
The silver lining to this disaster is the awareness that it has drawn to the negative impacts of offshore drilling. The oil industry has an impressive record when it comes to safety on their oil rigs and significant spills are rare occurrences. But, drilling for oil is not without risks as clearly seen by this latest incident. It reminds us of what can happen when the oil we depend on to fuel our cars is let loose in our oceans.
What does this mean for energy and climate legislation? While my heart has saddened at the sight of the spreading oil slick in the Gulf, my hope has also grown. I hope that this latest incident will bring Senator Graham back to the table, ideally with his Republican colleagues. I hope that we will come together as a nation to make tough decisions that will ensure the success of our country, without sacrificing our land, water and air.