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Mr. MORAN. Madam Speaker, I thank my friend and colleague from Massachusetts.
Madam Speaker, I support President Obama's proposed offshore drilling lease plan. I will vote for it, but I suspect that it will garner little support, and that's the reason why it was scheduled for consideration today. But unlike the Republican majority in the House who favor drilling above all else, Interior Secretary Salazar and President Obama are acting more responsibly in a balanced fashion.
Their 5-year leasing plan attempts to balance the full range of public and private interests. Their 5-year leasing plan attempts to ensure that our coastal waters will continue to be a shared public resource. They were never meant to be the exclusive domain of the oil and gas industry.
Introducing drilling in new areas, as the gentleman from Washington State's bill would do, will disrupt established industries like commercial fishing and beach tourism. There is no question about that. And there is no need to rush forward and open our entire coast to drilling when 75 percent of our offshore oil and gas resources are already available for drilling. In fact, more oil is in production today under the Obama administration than at any time during the last 14 years. And more of the public's lands and waters have been leased for drilling today than at any previous time in American history.
Onshore, oil companies hold leases on more than 73 million acres of the public's land, though they choose to keep 45 million of those acres inactive.
Offshore, more than 37 million acres of the Outer Continental Shelf have been offered for lease, although the oil industry has bid on less than 10 percent of these new available leases. As of June 1 of this year, there were 1,980 rotary drilling rigs operating on U.S. lands and waters, more than all other countries combined.
Now, the President's plan does open up areas in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas off Alaska's northern coast to oil and gas development. I do have strong misgivings that adequate safeguards have been established to respond to a future oil spill disaster in these seas because drilling will be done in a harsh environment in a remote area where disaster response capabilities are extremely limited and could be compromised by severe weather conditions, which in fact are the norm up there.
But I am in strong agreement that the 2012-2017 plan excludes lease sale 220 that covers waters in the Mid-Atlantic, especially off the coast of Virginia. In addition to commercial fishing interests and tourism, lease sale 220 threatens military readiness, our national security interests, and it intersects shipping lanes for the Atlantic's two busiest commercial ports--Hampton Roads and Baltimore. The U.S. Atlantic fleet is based at the Norfolk Naval Base and operates in these very same waters that the President wants to protect. He wisely proposes simply postponing oil and gas development primarily for that purpose.
According to a report issued by the Office of the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Readiness, there should be no lease sales in 72 percent of the proposed 220 lease area since it is in conflict with live ordnance, air surface missile/bomb and gunnery exercises, shipboard qualification trials, carrier qualifications, and follow-on testing and evaluation. An additional 5 percent would interfere with aerial operations and shouldn't host permanent surface structures.
In summary, 78 percent of proposed lease sale 220 that the President wisely postpones would be in areas that conflict with our national security needs; and a good deal of the remaining 22 percent would be within the shipping lanes to the ports of Hampton Roads and Baltimore.
Madam Speaker, our coastal waters are a shared resource that host a number of competing and sometimes incompatible uses. In the interest of the oil and gas industry, and to perpetuate a myth that somehow we can drill our way to lower gasoline prices and energy independence, the Republican majority is demonstrating a disregard for our other economic interests and the livelihood of millions of Americans employed in the fishing and tourism and national security sectors. Their livelihood is needlessly placed at risk in a drilling-above-all-else policy.
So I encourage my colleagues to support the President's balanced legislation and reject the other drilling bill that is on the floor today. The President is trying to do the right thing, and he should be supported. The other bill will have unintended, unforeseen, but inevitably adverse consequences to our economy.
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