This was a vote on final passage of legislation that would loosen regulations on air pollution caused by oil and gas drilling, and eliminate the Environmental Appeals Board’s authority to review applications for oil drilling leases. Specifically, the bill would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from measuring air pollution caused by oil drilling on water. Rather, the EPA would be limited to measuring such pollution emitted on land. In addition, the underlying oil drilling bill would eliminate the Environmental Appeals Board’s authority to review applications for oil drilling leases. Under the bill, the authority to review challenges to oil drilling permitting decisions would instead be vested in the D.C. Court of Appeals.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) urged support for the bill: “…The purpose of this bill is real simple. It is to streamline the permit process to allow us more domestic production of oil and gas. In this country, we consume about 19 million barrels a day of oil and we produce about 7 million, and the exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf has been delayed for years because of a broken bureaucracy….It has been a never-ending circuit of approvals, appeals and re-applications, and it has stalled exploration for nearly 5 years. So what does that mean? It means that these resources, which perhaps contain as much as 28 billion--yes, that's billion--barrels of oil and 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, have been stalled.”
Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) also spoke in favor of the bill: “This is an important bill for our country and a step in the right direction when it comes to weaning ourselves off of foreign, Middle Eastern oil. It allows us to utilize the resources that we have in our own backyard--American energy for American jobs--responsibly and environmentally friendly. Gas prices are fluctuating near historic levels that can send our economy into yet another recession. Millions of Americans are out of work. The unemployment rate has ticked back above 9 percent. Unrest in the Middle East has highlighted our vulnerabilities that stem from dependence on oil half a world away and from many countries that seek to do us harm. In the face of seemingly intractable problems, it is our duty as elected representatives of the people of this country to pursue solutions that benefit our neighbors and our nation as a whole. One such solution is unlocking America's vast energy potential. The Jobs and Energy Permitting Act is a bipartisan approach--a bipartisan bill--to bring a massive domestic resource online and create tens of thousands of jobs.”
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) opposed the bill: “The legislation is not about creating jobs. It is not about lowering gasoline prices. It is a giveaway to the oil industry that will increase pollution along our coasts….There are many flaws in the legislation. It allows huge increases in air pollution from oil and gas drilling activities by moving the point of measurement from the drill ship to the shore….The legislation eliminates the Environmental Appeals Board from the permitting process, even though it is a cheaper, faster, and more expert substitute for judicial review. And it requires all challenges to air permits to be raised before the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., thousands of miles away from the affected communities. Claims that this legislation will reduce gas prices or the budget deficit are nonsense. They have no substantiation. There are sensible improvements we could make, but we aren't making them. Instead, this bill waives environmental requirements and short-circuits permitting reviews at the expense of public health.”
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) also opposed the bill: “The premise of this bill is that pollution generated offshore doesn't matter because it will not affect any humans onshore or humans working offshore. And I know that those of us who represent littoral states [states situated near the sea] are most reassured by our colleagues from Colorado, Kentucky, and Nebraska in reassuring us that we won't negatively be affected by this legislation. Based on the content of this bill, apparently the majority believes that individuals employed on offshore oil rigs and ship servicing rigs do not breathe while they're working offshore….We keep hearing from across the aisle that this legislation will create 50,000 jobs. My friends, don't be misinformed. The study they referred to is a Shell Oil-funded study that simply estimates how many jobs could be created, all things being equal, like no pollution regulation, by offshore oil drilling in Alaska. Today's debate is not about whether to drill; it's about whether we will allow a massive increase in pollution when we do it. It is a false choice, and I urge my colleagues in the House to reject it.”
The House passed this bill by a vote of 253-166. Voting “yea” were 230 Republicans and 23 Democrats. 164 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 2 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation that would loosen regulations on air pollution caused by oil and gas drilling, and eliminate the Environmental Appeals Board’s authority to review applications for oil drilling leases. In order for this legislation to become law, however, it would need to pass the Senate and be signed into law by the president. The Senate was not expected to bring up this bill, and the Obama administration released a statement expressing its opposition to the measure. (That statement stopped short, however, of a threat to veto the bill.)