This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) that would have required the Secretary of the Interior to consult with an independent drilling safety organization not affiliated with the American Petroleum Institute when reviewing oil drilling permits. This amendment was offered to legislation requiring the Secretary of the Interior to approve or deny offshore oil drilling leases within 30 days of receiving an application.
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 the lifting of 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.
Garamendi urged support for his amendment: “…The legislation before us seems to ignore every one of the recommendations that the bipartisan, independent commission made about how to conduct deepwater drilling in a safe manner….The proposal that I have before us deals with one of the recommendations that the commission made, and that is that there be an independent safety organization created to provide an additional level of review of the requirements that drilling be done safely. The legislation before us ignores that recommendation by the commission and basically says that the American Petroleum Institute is quite capable of doing this. Well, the independent, bipartisan commission, said, `The American Petroleum Institute is culturally ill-suited to drive a safety revolution in the industry. For this reason, it is essential that the safety enterprise operate apart from the American Petroleum Institute,' and I could not agree more….My amendment would require that, as the Secretary is trying to determine whether permit applications meet the critical safety requirements, he must consult with an independent safety organization, and that organization must not be affiliated with the American Petroleum Institute.”
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) opposed the amendment: “ I do oppose this amendment. Although well intended, the Putting the Gulf of Mexico Back to Work Act [the underlying bill] itself makes drilling already safer by requiring that the Secretary ensure that any proposed drilling operation be subject to a safety review--it's there in the bill already--and that it meet established critical safety system requirements, including blowout prevention and oil spill response and containment requirements, and this has to be done before the issuance of a permit. The decision to approve individual permit applications is the responsibility of the Department of the Interior. I don't believe it should be farmed out to other organizations that may or may not have the background, the expertise, or the resources to evaluate drilling permits….Oversight is the federal government's responsibility, and it should not be delegated to outside organizations.”
The House rejected this amendment by a vote of 169-240. Voting “yea” were 163 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 6 Republicans. 224 Republicans and 16 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected an amendment that would have required the Secretary of the Interior to consult with an independent drilling safety organization not affiliated with the American Petroleum Institute when reviewing oil-drilling permits.