By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
House takes up offshore drilling
Placeholder Image

    WASHINGTON — The House moved toward a vote Tuesday to end the longtime ban on oil drilling in Atlantic and Pacific waters. Republicans called it a Democratic ruse that would leave most untapped offshore oil out of bounds.
    The Democrats’ bill would allow drilling in waters 50 miles from shore almost everywhere from New England to Washington state as long as a state agrees to go along with energy development off its coast line. Beyond 100 miles, no state approval would be required.
    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the measure a compromise that would allow more domestic energy production, while also imposing additional taxes on the largest oil companies. The bill also provides fresh support for development of alternative fuels and such technologies as plug-in hybrid cars.
    But Republicans lashed out at the legislation and accused Pelosi of trying to deceive the public and simply provide cover from Democrats this election year with a vote on offshore drilling — an issue GOP presidential nominee John McCain and GOP lawmakers in general have made a key in their response to high gasoline prices.
    It’s a bill ‘‘written in the dark of night that won’t do a damn thing about the supply of energy. ... It’s a hoax on the American people,’’ complained House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio.
    Republican anger punctuated the floor debate as Democrats structured the legislation in a way to prevent amendments, including attempts by Republicans to bring up a much broader drilling proposal that would open waters as close as three miles from shore.
    That brought a flurry of GOP motions for the House to adjourn, each defeated, as Republicans sought to protest the bill and stave off an eventual vote, expected later in the day.
    Democrats countered that the legislation shifts America’s energy polices away from oil to alternative fuels.
    ‘‘America needs an oil change,’’ snapped Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., ‘‘They keep saying on the Republican side, ‘Drill, baby, drill!’ What we’re saying is ‘Change, baby, change!’ and they can’t change.’’
    In addition to the drilling measure, the Democratic bill calls for rolling back $18 billion in tax breaks for the five largest oil companies and requires energy companies to pay additional royalties from oil taken from the deep water areas of the Gulf of Mexico.
    And, in response to a recent sex and drug scandal involving the federal office that oversees the oil royalty program and energy company employees, the bill would make it a federal crime for oil companies holding federal leases to provide gifts to government employees.
    Revenues collected from the oil taxes would be used for tax breaks for wind and solar energy industries, for development of cellulose ethanol and to spur energy efficiency and conservation. It would require utilities to produce at least 15 percent of their electricity from solar, wind or other non-fossil energy source.
    Meanwhile the Senate planned to consider its own offshore drilling proposal.
    At least three proposals were being developed including a Democratic measure calling for limited drilling, a plan crafted by a bipartisan group of 20 senators that would open waters from Virginia to Georgia, and a Republican plan that would lift all of the drilling bans and allow states to permit energy development off their coastlines.
    The drilling moratorium have been in place across virtually all offshore waters of the Outer Continental Shelf — outside the western Gulf of Mexico and Alaska — for more than a quarter century. Congress has renewed the drilling moratorium every year.

Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter