This was a vote on an amendment that would have prevented new energy exploration in publicly owned areas off the coast of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.
Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) offered the amendment to a Republican bill that would open vast new stretches of publicly owned land to energy exploration. Rep. Bishop’s amendment would have prevented drilling off the coast of the northeastern United States. It would also have eliminated a provision that gave states a share of the income from selling leases to oil companies.
Democrats argued that Rep. Bishop’s amendment would protect the economy in an area that depends on a healthy coastline. Opening these areas to drilling would demonstrate that Congress had learned nothing from the devastating 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, he said.
“We have not put in place a single piece of legislation that would make offshore drilling safer. We have not put in place a single piece of legislation designed to prevent the kind of disaster that took place in the Gulf,” Rep. Bishop said “We are continuing to rely on the sort of slipshod environmental reviews that preceded the granting of leases in the Gulf, and I think to expose certainly my region … to the kind of disaster that the Gulf was exposed to without putting in place those safeguards is simply unwise.”
Republicans argued that exploiting resources off the U.S. coast would help lower gasoline prices and reduce the United States’ dependence on foreign sources of oil and gas. The territory off the coast belongs to all Americans, not just those of the northeastern states, and Congress has a right to call for drilling, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) said.
“Federal assessments estimate that the North Atlantic contains nearly two billion barrels of oil and nearly 18 trillion cubic feet of gas. Using modern technology, it's highly likely that the find could be even more than what is estimated. This amendment, then, would lock away those resources from the American people who … own them,” Rep. Hastings said. “The American people want to increase American energy production and jobs, not stifle American energy production.”
Rep. Bishop’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 169-257. Voting “yea” were 162 Democrats, including a majority of progressives, and 7 Republicans. Voting “nay” were 232 Republicans and 25 Democrats. As a result, the Republican legislation to open vast new stretches of federally owned territory to drilling moved forward without exempting the northeastern United States.