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The Perfect Gulf Spill Anniversary Present: Expand and Speed Up Drilling

As the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster approaches, it's comforting to know that some in Congress have a found a fitting way to remember the worst oil spill in U.S. history. A House panel advanced Wednesday a trio of GOP bills that would speed up offshore drilling permits in the Gulf and open up new areas in the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Meanwhile, safety reform legislation has languished. Washington state Republican Doc Hastings, who led the legislative effort, said it's too soon to enact safety-reform legislation because investigations into the spill are still underway.

Hastings' explanation via Politico:

So when we get all that information, then we will act accordingly, and I think the American people want us to act accordingly. But I don't think it does any good for our American-made energy, for example, to rush to something when we don't have all the facts.
So Doc, you mean like rushing forward with bills that mandate expanded offshore drilling and faster development before the Interior Department implements new safety rules? Heck no. Hastings provided this perfectly rational explanation, that expanding offshore drilling and the Gulf oil spill are two separate issues. Plus, the Obama administration obviously agrees that drilling is safe and should resume, otherwise it "wouldn't have issued the permits down there," Hastings said.
Interior has resumed permitting for deepwater water projects since the drilling moratorium was lifted late last year. And it has issued a new set of safety rules. Still, the agency isn't finished with its review and may issue additional rules this year.
Here's a quick breakdown of the three bills:
  • Putting the Gulf Back to Work Act: Would requires Interior to act on a permit to drill within 30 days of receiving an application. It's not a requirement that permits be approved.
  • Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act: Would requires Interior to hold lease sales in the Gulf and offshore Virginia that have been delayed or canceled.
  • Reversing President Obama's Offshore Moratorium Act: Would require the Obama administration to open up areas that contain the most oil and gas resources including the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. It would also require Interior to establish a production goal when it drafts five-year lease sale plans.
Photo from Flickr user Deepwater Horizon Response
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