The Obama Administration has come out against H.R. 1231. This bill would require the Department of the Interior to open new areas on the Outer Continental Shelf to leasing for oil and natural gas exploration and development, without any discretion to determine which areas are actually appropriate. The bill would open for exploration the entire East Coast, offshore California, and elsewhere, without providing states and local citizens the opportunity to share views about where exploration should happen.
The Administration says it is committed to a strategy that, among other things, includes a balanced process to open new areas for leasing, prepare for the possibility of oil spills, and encourage responsible development of existing leases. The Administration believes H.R. 1231 would undermine and circumvent the transparent public process for determining which new areas are appropriate to lease.
The Obama Administration says it is developing a 5-year plan for offshore oil and gas exploration and production that incorporates lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This plan, developed through a public review process, will assess which areas of the OCS are appropriate for future oil and gas leasing. In addition, the Administration is focusing on resources that are already available for development under existing plans. A recent DOI report shows that about 70% of leased offshore acres are not being explored or developed.
H.R. 1231 was debated on the House floor on Wednesday. Proponents of the bill say it would require the administration to allow drilling in at least 50% of the Outer Continental Shelf areas known to contain the most oil and gas. Specifically, that means southern California, the Arctic, mid-Atlantic and Eastern Gulf of Mexico. As for the bill's prospects, after likely House passage Thursday, it will die in the Senate. Sources say Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will not allow any bill that allows drilling to come to the Senate floor.