Republican Losses to Spur Lame-Duck Push for Senate Offshore Drilling Plan
Ben Geman
Wednesday Nov 08, 2006  
The Democrats' House takeover is prompting industries that rely on natural gas to press for final congressional passage of the Senate's offshore oil-and-gas drilling plan before the new Congress begins, lobbyists say.

Industry groups that had stopped short of backing either the House or the Senate bill in favor of a general call for wider offshore gas production are now focusing on getting the House to accept the narrower Senate offshore leasing bill in the lame-duck session.

"It is very important that we send a signal to the marketplace that help is on the way, and in the current climate the best way to do that is for the House to pass the Senate bill," said Jack Gerard, president of the American Chemistry Council, in an interview today.

"We believe," Gerard added, "that is the only viable option left on the table."

Said another industry source close to the lobbying effort: "It is better to get something now."

The Senate bill would open over 8 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to new drilling, while the broader House measure relaxes offshore leasing bans in other coastal areas.

Senators have said their plan is essentially the broadest measure capable of clearing their chamber. But House Republican leaders have resisted accepting the Senate plan and want a compromise.

David Jenkins, director of government affairs for Republicans for Environmental Protection, also predicted a strong industry effort to win adoption of the Senate bill in the lame duck. "Industry will be pushing hard to get something before things change over," he said.

Jenkins said advocates of the House bill including its primary architect, Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), who is himself a lame-duck lawmaker, will now have a hard time defending efforts to adopt a broader drilling plan.

"People like Pombo, they've got to see the writing," Jenkins said. "What are they going to do? I don't see how they keep digging their heels in for the House bill."

Senior reporter Darren Samuelsohn contributed to this report.

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