House calls on Obama to is­sue drilling per­mits

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

With gas prices top­ping $4 a gal­lon, the House passed a bill May 5 that would or­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to is­sue off­shore-drilling per­mits for leases it de­layed or can­celed in the wake of last year’s Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon rig ex­plo­sion in the Gulf of Mex­ico.

The mea­sure, the first in what Repub­li­cans say will be a se­ries of pro-U.S. en­ergy bills they will push through the House, passed 266-149 with 33 Democrats join­ing all but two Repub­li­cans in back­ing the new drilling or­ders.

In part be­cause of lower de­mand, the price of oil dropped by al­most $10, or nearly 10 per­cent, on May 5, though it’s not yet clear how much ef­fect that will have on the price at the pump, which av­er­aged just a penny or two shy of $4 last week.

Still, both Democrats and Repub­li­cans ac­knowl­edged there is lit­tle they can do in Congress to af­fect prices in the short term, so in­stead they sparred over sym­bolic steps they each said would show the mar­kets they are se­ri­ous about bring­ing more re­sources on­line.

“The sooner we be­gin to cre­ate more Amer­i­can en­ergy, the sooner we’ll be able to lower the prices, and be­come less de­pen­dent on for­eign sources and cre- ate more Amer­i­can jobs,” House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Repub­li­can, told re­porters.

For the GOP, the so­lu­tion in­volves push­ing to lease more U.S. ter­ri­tory off­shore. The bill would di­rect the In­te­rior Depart­ment to con­duct sales of three lease ar­eas in the Gulf of Mex­ico and one off the shores of Vir­ginia.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion re­leased a state­ment op­pos­ing the bill, but no­tably did not in­clude a veto threat.

In the state­ment, the ad­min­is­tra­tion said it would pre­fer do­ing new en­vi­ron­men­tal stud­ies that take into ac­count the Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon spill, and said the In­te­rior Depart­ment had al­ready planned on grant­ing the three Gulf of Mex­ico leases next year, or one year be­hind sched­ule.

Last year’s oil rig ex­plo­sion killed 11 work­ers and dumped an es­ti­mated nearly 5 mil­lion bar­rels of oil into the Gulf be­fore it was fi­nally plugged last sum­mer. Pres­i­dent Obama first im­posed a drilling mora­to­rium then, af­ter it was lifted, Repub­li­cans ac­cused him of still go­ing too slowly in is­su­ing per­mits.

Demo­cratic lead­ers, though, said drilling safety — both for the en­vi­ron­ment and for work­ers — must be given more at­ten­tion.

They tried to force votes to with­draw fed­eral sub­si­dies from oil com­pa­nies and to make com­pa­nies sell U.S.-pro­duced oil in the U.S., rather than putting it up for sale on the world mar­ket. But those ef­forts were blocked on par­lia­men­tary votes.

Democrats also said they want Congress or the pres­i­dent to re­lease oil from the Strate­gic Pe- troleum Re­serve, which they said would scare spec­u­la­tors out of the mar­ket and could help lower prices in the short term. They in­tro­duced their own leg­is­la­tion that they said would strengthen the abil­ity to crack down on oil spec­u­la­tion.

“That is what keeps spec­ula- tors awake at night wor­ried about, that the United States is go­ing to use this weapon in or­der to tell them that we are go­ing to wring out all of the prof­its from your spec­u­la­tion in this mar­ket­place,” said Rep. Ed­ward J. Markey, Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Crude and to the point: House Speaker John A. Boehner

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