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Will Congress end its ban on OCS drilling before George W. Bush leaves office?


Marine Log

August 12, 2008

Republicans step up pressure for offshore drilling

With some Republicans endorsing the so-called "Paris Hilton" energy policy (see the HillTube video above), others are stepping up efforts to get a vote on whether or not to extend Congressional prohibitions on energy leasing, by threatening to block vital spending measures--essentially closing down the government.

Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, and Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), Chairman of the Senate Steering Committee have launched an effort to protect what they've dubbed "American Energy Freedom Day" on October 1, 2008. On that day, the current prohibitions on energy leasing on most of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf and on oil shale leasing on federal lands will expire--unless the Congress proactively acts to extend them.

According to a Fox News report, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he intends to try to renew the bans when Congress returns in September by tacking them on to a continuing spending resolution -- a measure used to bypass the annual spending bills, and adopt the current spending levels until the new Congress takes its seat. But to pass his version, Reid will need a filibuster-breaking 60 votes, which could prove difficult.

Today, Senator DeMint (R-South Carolina), chairman of the Republican Senate Steering Committee, announced that 36 Senators have signed a letter to Harry Reidprotect October 1 as American Energy Freedom Day, and to "actively oppose" any attempt to extend bans on offshore drilling and oil shale beyond their expiration at the end of September. U.S. Congressman Hensarling (R-Texas) has been gathering signatures to a similar letter in the House of Representatives.

"The overwhelming majority of Republican Senators have pledged to protect October 1 as American Energy Freedom Day so we can reduce dependence on foreign oil and lower the cost of gas at the pump," said Senator DeMint. "Many people aren't aware that the bans on drilling must be renewed every year, and all we have to do is allow these prohibitions to expire on October 1 ... we will actively oppose any effort to extend the bans on offshore drilling and oil shale."

"There's been a great response already, but frankly, every senator should sign on because it's irrational to say "no" to proven American energy during this crisis. We plan to send this letter to Harry Reid after the Senate returns in September. During the next few weeks, Americans should contact their Senator and ask them to sign the letter to protect American Energy Freedom Day."

To date, the following Senators have signed the letter: Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), Wayne Allard (R-Colorado), John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Bob Bennett (R-Utah), Kit Bond (R-Missouri), Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), Jim Bunning (R-Kentucky), Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Larry Craig (R-Idaho), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico), John Ensign (R-Nevada), Michael Enzi (R-Wyoming), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire), Orin Hatch (R-Utah), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), Richard Lugar (R-Indiana), Mel Martinez (R-Florida), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Pat Roberts (R-), Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), Richard Shelby(R-Alabama), Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), John Sununu (R-New Hampshire), David Vitter (R-Louisiana), George Voinovich (R-Ohio), John Warner (R-Virginia), Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi).

Meantime, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may be softening her position on drilling.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday night dropped her staunch opposition to a vote on offshore oil drilling in the House.

In an interview on CNN's Larry King Live, reports The Hill newspaper, she indicated that she was open to a vote.

"They have this thing that says drill offshore in the protected areas," Pelosi said. "We can do that. We can have a vote on that."

She indicated such a vote would have to be part of a larger package that included other policies, like releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which she said could bring down prices in a matter of days.

"But it has to be part of something that says we want to bring immediate relief to the public and is not just a hoax on them," Pelosi continued.

The Hill reports that she indicated that she might support a package that includes drilling. She said her decision on whether to support such legislation would depend on how the policies are packaged.

"It's not excluded, let's put it that way," Pelosi said.

Republicans are skeptical. (See HillTube video)

They're even endorsing the "Paris Hilton" energy policy (See HillTube video)

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