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Public Statements

Offshore Energy and Jobs Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I thank my friend from Oregon.

Each summer as Americans rush to our beaches for fun and relaxation, the majority of the Republicans here in the House rush forward with ill-conceived legislation to open up those same beaches and coastlines to unsafe drilling. Today we have a bill that has been accelerated through the legislative process and has been drafted in a way that limits the opportunity for Members representing coastal States to protect shorelines and coastal economies.

The bill we're considering would allow Big Oil to put drilling rigs off the Atlantic, Pacific and Alaskan coasts without enacting key drilling safety reforms that we know should be there following the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. This is bad policy through a bad process, all so this bill can enjoy the same fate that so many irresponsible drilling bills that the majority has rammed through have experienced.

They put these bills forward in apparent ignorance that a law requires passage by both houses and signature by the President. The administration was never given an opportunity to testify on this legislation, and now the President has suggested that he would veto this bill if it ever made it to his desk.

In committee markup, I offered an amendment to protect the Atlantic coastal communities, including my home State of New Jersey, which is strongly opposed to drilling off the Atlantic coast. The amendment was rejected on a party-line vote.

Need I remind my colleagues that about 70 million people live in Atlantic coastal regions. And according to NOAA data, Atlantic commercial fisheries were valued at $1.8 billion in 2011, and the New Jersey Travel Industry Association says New Jersey's travel and tourism is worth about $38 billion a year, supporting more than 500,000 jobs. All this depends on the pristine conditions of our beaches and shoreline.

But this isn't just about what New Jersey wants. Energy development of the OCS is a Federal issue. And as we learned during the debate on my amendment, any oil spill off the coast of, let's say, Virginia, will drift quickly to the coast of New Jersey and other northeastern States.

I submitted an amendment this week, but it was ruled not in order. The Rules Committee seems to think it's strange to want to collect fees--rent on drilling plots that belong to the public. Fees should be collected on all leases, producing or not. I think it's worth noting that according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, as of June of this year, there were more than 30 million acres of non-producing leases, five times more than the 5.6 million leased acres where oil production is currently occurring. Oil and gas doesn't need more acreage to drill on. They need to drill on the leases they currently hold.

The CHAIR. The time of the gentleman has expired.

Mr. DeFAZIO. I yield the gentleman from New Jersey an additional 1 minute.

Mr. HOLT. In addition to these leases, we're considering this bill on the heels of the President's speech announcing his plan to reduce carbon pollution and to mitigate the threats of global climate change.

I realize the authors of this bill don't put much stock in what the President had to say the other day. But as elected representatives, we have a moral obligation to act. As the climate changes, there will be stronger superstorms, worse floods, more withering droughts, more intense wildfires. The science is overwhelming, but many of my colleagues in Congress would prefer to deepen our dependence on fossil fuels.

We're considering this bill at the wrong time, in the wrong way, and it's the wrong bill. The crisis is not waning. The crisis of climate change is real. President Obama is doing all he can administratively while Congress fiddles. It is no coincidence that as Democrats work to address climate change, Republicans in the House recklessly pursue a ``drill, baby, drill'' agenda.

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