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Congressional Replacement of President Obama's Energy-Restricting and Job-Limiting Offshore Drilling Plan

Floor Speech

Location: Unknown


Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to this bill, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

First, I would like to address a point that the chairman made as he attempted to correct Mr. Markey and said that there have been a number of wind energy bills considered. I think we would gladly count those votes in the column of gutting the national environmental protection act, but wind, no. The wind industry did not support any of those bills that he was talking about or amendments. They are not wind legislation. They are environmental spoilage legislation.

Mr. Chairman, this Republican bill would allow drilling off the coast of every State in the east coast, from Maine to South Carolina, and off of California and in Bristol Bay, off of Alaska, which is, I might add, one of our Nation's most important salmon fisheries. By reviving long dead lease sales in these fishery areas, they would be reviving sales that the Bush administration issued just 4 days before they left office.

Now, it's interesting that tomorrow we will consider Republican legislation on this floor that is intended to prohibit midnight regulations, yet, today, we have a midnight drilling lease sale. They are, in effect, trying to reinstate the Bush administration's midnight offshore leasing plan. So I just want my colleagues on the other side to know that tomorrow, when we are talking about midnight regulations, that they were actually talking about it a day in advance.

The other side has also made the point that the administration's offshore drilling plan would reinstate a moratorium. Quite the opposite. Mr. Chairman, the Obama administration's offshore drilling plan already, now, makes more than 75 percent of our oil and gas resources available for drilling. They are not doing what the Republicans are saying they are doing.

Two months ago, industry analysts were projecting that, by the end of this year, we would have 50 percent more floating rigs operating in the gulf than before the BP spill. It turns out they were wrong. Not by the end of this year. It's already happened. We have about 50 percent more rigs operating in the gulf today. We have more rigs operating in the United States than in the rest of the world combined.

And they're saying the President is trying to kill the oil industry.

H.R. 6082 ignores the fact that President Obama's all-of-the-above energy strategy has successfully reduced our dependence on foreign oil from 57 percent in the last year of the Bush administration to only 45 percent today. It ignores the fact that our oil production is at an 18-year high.

It does raise the question of why we have this legislation in front of us at all if not to maybe embarrass the President. But, no, the President will not be embarrassed by the facts, and I hope we will deal with the facts here.

This legislation is unnecessary and unwise--unnecessary because the drilling is taking place, and unwise because the other side wants to strike all of the environmental protections that, rather than weakened, should be strengthened.

Later we will be considering an amendment that I will offer to strike the language from the underlying bill that requires the Department of the Interior to conduct a single multisale environmental impact statement for all new areas opened for drilling.

You may recall, Mr. Chairman, I said a moment ago that this legislation talks about drilling from Maine to South Carolina, off California and in Alaska. And they propose to say a single environmental impact statement will deal with that? Well, that's like the environmental impact statement that applied to the BP drilling in the gulf that talked about walruses. Yes, because they were using the same environmental impact statement that they had used in Alaska previously.

No, the protection of the environment requires a little more attention than that. Congress has a responsibility to the American people to ensure that offshore oil and gas drilling is occurring in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.

Also, later, we will be considering an amendment that I will offer that has to do with the royalties that will be collected--or should be collected--from offshore drilling.

The Big Five oil companies made a record profit of $137 billion last year. In the first quarter of this year, they continued to capitalize on the pain of Americans at the pump, raking in $368 million in profits per day. And this legislation that is brought to the floor by the Republicans here wants to allow them to drill in many places without paying any royalties, without paying a fee to the taxpayers for the oil that the taxpayers own.

Right now, more than 25 percent of all oil produced offshore on Federal lands is produced without paying a penny of royalty. That should be changed.

My constituents--and I think the constituents of any Member of this House--would say it's only fair that these oil companies pay for what they use.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chair, in 1969, many in America encountered the phrase ``oil spill'' for the first time. Off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, there was what has now become the granddaddy of oil spills.

Currently representing that area and those beaches is our good colleague. I yield 3 minutes to the gentlelady from California (Mrs. Capps).


Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I would like to yield 4 minutes to the gentleman from New York (Mr. Tonko), who is a new member of the committee, but who is one of the most energetic and informed members of the committee and passionate about preserving a healthful environment.


Mr. HOLT. If the majority Republicans continue to push their ``oil above all'' agenda, then we House Democrats will persist in our attempts to make offshore drilling safe--safe for the workers and safe for the environment--and to make sure that the American taxpayers are getting their fair share of return on the use of their natural resources.

The Big Five oil companies made a record profit of $137 billion last year. In the first quarter of this year, they continued to capitalize on the pain that Americans feel at the pump, raking in $368 million in profits per day. But did the Americans see increased profits from selling their oil as it was pumped from public lands offshore? No. As a result of a legal quirk in the 1995 law, oil companies are not paying any royalties to the American people on leases issued between 1996 and 2000--none, zero.

In recent years, the amount of free oil these companies have been pumping has gone through the roof as more of these faulty leases have gone into production. In fact, right now, more than 25 percent of all oil produced offshore on Federal lands is produced royalty-free, and these oil companies are getting a complete windfall on 25 percent of all the oil produced offshore in the United States. They don't pay the American people one penny for their drilling regardless of their huge profits. It's just unjust.

According to the Interior Department, American taxpayers stand to lose about $9.5 billion over the next 10 years from this big giveaway to oil companies. Yes, it's a giveaway. The Government Accountability Office projects that all this free drilling will cost us as much as $53 billion over the life of the leases. My amendment would recover these revenues that rightly belong to the American people.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. HOLT. My amendment would offer oil companies a choice. They could choose either to continue to produce royalty-free oil in the gulf and not get new leases or they could pay their fair share and proceed with this willy-nilly drilling that would be allowed under this law, under this legislation. My amendment does not break contracts. It simply would not force companies to give up their leases. It would impose a condition on future leases. As the Congressional Research Service has stated:

As a general matter, the United States has broad discretion in setting the qualifications of those with whom it contracts.

These oil companies are the most profitable companies in the history of the world, yet they receive more than $4 billion a year in taxpayer subsidies. On top of that, they get to drill for free on all of these public lands. Because of a quirk in the 1995 law, which came about because that Republican Congress was not eager to make oil companies pay, we shouldn't continue to give them a free ride.

If my colleagues on the other side are serious about paying down the deficit and realistically financing necessary investments in this Nation, then there is no excuse for not supporting this amendment to recover about $1 billion a year--actually, somewhat more than that probably--that is rightfully owed to the American people.

It's time to end this taxpayer rip-off once and for all.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.


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