This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) that would have required additional environmental studies to be conducted on the impact of offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. This amendment was offered to legislation requiring the Secretary of the Interior to conduct oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico that had been cancelled or delayed by the Obama administration.
Following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the Obama administration imposed an offshore drilling moratorium. The administration lifted that moratorium, however, in May 2010. Despite lifting the moratorium, however, Republicans argued that the administration had been too slow in approving leases for drilling, and contributed to high gasoline prices. The Obama administration (and many congressional Democrats) countered that it was seeking to improve drilling safety in order to prevent another oil spill disaster.
The underlying bill had “deemed” an environmental review that had been conducted in 2007—prior to the BP oil spill—to be sufficient for allowing new oil drilling permits. Holt’s amendment would have removed that language from the bill and required additional environmental impact studies.
Holt urged support for his amendment: “The authors of this bill are so eager to accelerate the giveaways to Big Oil, rather than protect the consumers, the environment and workers, that they, in their legislation, deem that the shoddy environmental analysis conducted 4 years ago, in other words, years prior to the gulf oil blowout, to be sufficient for all future lease sales in the gulf, despite their glaring deficiencies. They deem--in other words, assume, declare--that this is sufficient. Look, this environmental impact statement was not adequate then, and we know it's not adequate now. `Deem' is a dangerous word in legislation, especially legislation that could jeopardize worker safety and imperil the economic structure of coastal communities. My amendment would strike the language deeming the pre-spill environmental work to be sufficient and it, therefore, would require a new, updated analysis.…This amnesia bill before us learns no lessons from the worst environmental oil spill in our history.”
Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA) opposed the amendment, arguing it was simply meant to delay oil drilling projects: “Here we go again. Delay, delay, delay. The poor people of my district will have to sit there, unemployed and wait again. We've gotten environmental study after environmental study after environmental study that will happen after these lease sales.…I can tell you that this administration pulls delay tactic after delay tactic after delay tactic in permitting wells in the Gulf of Mexico. They lift the moratorium, and then they don't issue permits. So what do they do now, the other side of the aisle, my [Democratic] colleagues on the other side? They say, well, it looks like we have a piece of legislation in front of us that's going to finally start to open the gulf back up. So let's see how many roadblocks we can put in front of it. I urge my colleagues, defeat this amendment. Let's get on with the business of providing this country with affordable energy and let's get this economy rolling and let's get back to creating jobs.”
The House rejected this amendment by a vote of 174-240. Voting “yea” were 166 Democrats and 8 Republicans. 226 Republicans and 14 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected an amendment that would have required additional environmental studies to be conducted on the impact of offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.