House Votes to Maintain Offshore Drilling Limits

The House rejected two attempts to lift sections of the moratorium on oil and gas drilling on the outer continental shelf.

By a 196-233 vote, the House defeated an amendment from Rep. John Peterson (R-Pa.) that would allow natural gas-only drilling 25 miles offshore.

The House also defeated, 167-264, a Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) amendment for new offshore oil and gas leases in the mid-Atlantic and south Atlantic Ocean.

Rising natural gas prices are driving U.S. industries away, Peterson said during floor debate yesterday. "It is absolute insanity for America to starve itself of the clean, green fuel that has never spoiled a beach," Peterson said. "It has never washed up onshore. It's a gas."

Peterson insisted states such as California, Florida and New Jersey have converted electricity production to gas but refuse to allow new offshore drilling that would lower prices.

Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) disputed Peterson's claim that gas-only drilling is feasible. "There is no such thing," Capps said. "Drilling for natural gas means drilling for oil."

The Bush administration and industry groups oppose gas-only drilling, Capps noted, as it would take at least seven years for natural gas from new leases to come online.

Peterson did not call for a roll-call vote on his second amendment--to allow oil and gas drilling within 100 miles of the coastline--after it failed a voice vote.

The votes took place during debate over a fiscal 2008 spending bill for the Interior Department, U.S. EPA and Forest Service, with a fight over earmarks shaping the action for much of the day.

As the first spending bill with earmarks to go through the House this year, the measure is a target of the Republican Study Committee and fiscal conservatives. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) alone filed amendments to strip out more than three quarters of the 220 earmarks in the bill, primarily on wastewater projects and national heritage sites.

A unanimous consent agreement later cut the number of earmark-related amendments to less than 20. Several of the roll-call votes targeted earmarks from members of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, including Chairman Norm Dicks (D-Wash.).

The House will return today to consider an amendment on oil and gas development in the Rocky Mountains and is expected to vote on final passage.

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