This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) making a number of changes to an oil drilling regulation bill, including requiring oil companies to pay royalties on oil that was discharged from a well (including spilled oil), and requiring a study of the effects of oil and gas drilling on marine mammals.
Rahall, the chairman of the committee that drafted the underlying bill (which imposed new safety regulations on companies engaging in offshore oil drilling), urged support for the amendment: “It [the amendment] holds CEOs more accountable for the actions of their companies. It ensures that, even when you spill the public's oil, you still pay the royalties that are due to the American people, and it also leads to a more accurate collection of royalties for natural gas.…These are noncontroversial, good government, and good policy provisions. I urge my colleagues to support them.”
Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) urged opposition to the amendment, arguing that it included proposals that had never been considered by the Natural Resources Committee – the committee responsible for legislation relating to oil drilling regulation: “Inside this lengthy amendment are a number of significant changes to oil and gas policies, royalties, collections, and studies. That might be fine, but I am not aware that any of these provisions have been subject to hearings in our Committee on Natural Resources, and I think that we should certainly have a better understanding of the impacts before we pass this on the House floor.”
Hastings also noted that the amendment “includes a cumulative impact [study]of oil and gas on marine mammals,” a proposal that Hastings described as “insidious.” Hastings said: “Now I don't know exactly--and I don't think anybody really knows--how to measure what those impacts are…I think it would be good for us, from the standpoint of making policy, to know the full impact of that. And, really, the only way you can know the full impact of that is to have hearings on this subject. To my knowledge, we [the House Natural Resources Committee] have not had any hearings on that.”
The House agreed to the amendment by a vote of 250-161. 238 Democrats and 12 Republicans voted “yea.” 148 Republicans and 13 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House agreed to an amendment (to legislation which imposed new safety regulations on companies engaging in offshore oil drilling) requiring oil companies to pay royalties on oil that was discharged from a well (including spilled oil), and requiring a study of the effects of oil and gas drilling on marine mammals.