Senate Climate Bill Allows Neighboring States To Veto Offshore Drilling

An AP piece in today’s Times-Picayune reports that the Kerry-Lieberman cap-and-trade bill – which as of now has zero Republican support – would allow states to veto offshore drilling in neighboring states less than 75 miles away from their shores, if the vetoers can show negative effects from drilling plans.

The bill would allow states which do allow offshore drilling to obtain a share of federal revenues, a change in policy which would benefit Louisiana.

It’s unlikely this would affect Louisiana, since Texas and Mississippi currently have offshore drilling in or near their territorial waters. In all likelihood it would eliminate any chance of drilling off the Atlantic coacst, however.

Drilling in the Pacific looks increasingly unlikely in the wake of the Gulf oil spill, as 20 congressional Democrats have now proposed to permanently ban drilling off the West Coast. As Fox News reports:

In the wake of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, some lawmakers in another oil-producing region are calling for a drilling ban off their shores. 20 Democrats have co-signed a bill that would ban new leases off the entire West Coast.

All of the lawmakers are from California, Oregon and Washington State. The bill would amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to permanently prohibit offshore drilling off the coasts of those three states.

According to the Minerals Management Service there are 49 active leases in the area. Currently 43 of those are active and producing 24 million barrels of oil and 47 billion cubic feet of natural gas annually. MMS estimates there are 10 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 37 trillion cubic feet of gas in the region.

Supporters of the ban point to the Gulf disaster saying there is no way of preventing a similar accident off the pristine West Coast beaches. And a spill of that magnitude would not only severly damage the environment but also devastate the tourism industry especially in southern California.

But critics say the ban would make the U.S. even more dependent on oil imports which currently amount to 12 million barrels of crude per day. The U.S. produces only 5 million barrels a day.

The bill also puts all of the burden for domestic oil production on other regions such as the Gulf states, East Coast and Alaska. Lawmakers in those areas may not be quick to support a bill viewed as NIMBYism at its best.

Supporters, including the bill’s sponsor Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Creek, CA, say the country should use the Gulf spill as incentive to drastically reduce oil consumption. Garamendi insists alternative energy projects must be better funded than they are.

But even President Obama’s Department of Energy acknowledges that the U.S. will be dependent on oil until at least 2050.

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