Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. on Wednesday condemned the effort by Republicans to all but require more offshore drilling absent safety standards or environmental reviews. Pallone attempted to protect the Atlantic Shore from the GOP's plan but was rebuffed by the GOP majority.
"This is a dangerous plan that plays roulette with the ocean waters and beaches," said Pallone. "The oil industry and their Republican allies are ignoring the lessons that should have been learned from the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It was one of the worst environmental and economic disasters in history yet none of the pro-drilling bills advanced by the GOP include any of the recommendations by the independent commission that investigated the spill."
The bill, expected to be approved by the House tonight or tomorrow, would require the Department of the Interior to allow oil companies to do new drilling in extensive swathes of offshore sites on both coasts of the country, even if no environmental reviews are performed or safety standards in place. The measure, HR 1231, would amend the five-year drilling plan that balances energy production with the need to prevent another catastrophic spill.
Pallone went to the House Rules Committee this week in an attempt to amend the bill to continue the ban on gas and oil leasing off the Atlantic Coast. The committee rejected Pallone's amendment. Pallone tried twice previously to make similar changes to the bill before the Natural Resources Committee, but his efforts met the same fate.
"The Jersey Shore is an invaluable resource," Pallone said. "It's an environmental treasure and the most important attraction in New Jersey's multi-billion dollar tourism industry. An oil spill could cause real damage to the state's economy, including the loss of jobs. I want to keep New Jersey off limits for offshore drilling."
The bill is one of three the House Republicans have been working to advance. Last week, they approved legislation that would allow Big Oil to drill in the Gulf and in Virginia with limited oversight or environmental review. Another measure they voted out today would short-circuit the permitting process to favor the oil industry's desire to "drill for more profits."
While American motorists have been forced to pay escalating gas prices, the top five oil companies took in more than $32 billion in record profits during the first three months alone this year. At the same time, Big Oil benefits from $4 billion a year in tax breaks that have been protected by the Republican majority.
"The Republicans want people to believe they are helping consumers, but all they are really doing is helping Big Oil with big profits and big tax breaks," Pallone said. "New drilling will do nothing to bring down prices at the pump."
New oil wells won't be able to bring gas to the market for seven years to 10 years. And oil production is already at the highest level in history.
Pallone also criticized the Republicans for trying to cripple the agency responsible for policing oil speculators who can run up the cost of a barrel of oil $15.
Pallone is the author of the "No New Drilling Act of 2011," legislation that places a permanent stop to all new offshore drilling leases in federal waters. He also sent several letters to President Obama and Department of Interior in the wake of the spill requesting to remove offshore drilling in the Atlantic from the administration's five year drilling plan, which he did.