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Ms. TSONGAS. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I would like to thank our ranking member, Mr. Markey of Massachusetts, for his forceful advocacy on this issue.
I rise today in strong support of H.R. 6168, legislation that would support the President's proposed Offshore Drilling Lease Sale Plan for 2012-2017. This plan, which has been developed over the past few years with extensive public input, is a responsible way to increase domestic production of oil and gas while still protecting our delicate and vital ocean environment.
Contrary to Republican claims that the plan would restrict domestic production and hurt jobs, the President's proposed plan would actually open 75 percent of offshore oil and gas resources to development. Where there are resources, the land is being opened--75 percent. In fact, domestic production of oil is at an 18-year high, and gas production is at an all-time high under President Obama.
At the same time that the President's plan includes new leasing, it also protects many of our most important ocean environments from drilling, such as Georges Bank and other vital fishing areas off the coast of my State, Massachusetts. Georges Bank is a valuable public resource that has been central to our region's rich cultural heritage, economy, and identity.
For years, these waters have been at the heart of the New England fishing industry and have historically been one of the country's most productive fishing grounds. Income from Massachusetts fisheries has been valued at approximately $350 million annually, and Georges Bank is a key part of this marine ecosystem. Allowing oil and gas drilling on Georges Bank would threaten to destroy these rich fishing grounds and could have a devastating effect on the Massachusetts economy.
But the benefits of the President's responsible plan go well beyond just protecting Massachusetts. This plan would also protect Bristol Bay in Alaska from drilling. Bristol Bay, as many know, is one of Alaska's most pristine fishing grounds and the source of much of the salmon that we consume here in the United States.
The decision to keep these areas off-limits was based on local recommendations and a lack of infrastructure and oil spill preparedness. If we open this fishing ground to oil drilling, the impact could be felt across our country.
The Republican plan would also require just one environmental review for every new lease offered in the Atlantic, Pacific, or Bristol Bay, without taking into account the uniqueness of each of these locations. While I certainly understand the desire to streamline these reviews, requiring one blanket review for the entire country is not the answer.
The harsh climate of Alaska is infinitely different than that of the Gulf of Mexico or the Gulf of Maine. It is important to know the conditions of each site before drilling is started or we could face another disaster like the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon spill from which the Gulf Coast States are still recovering.
So I call upon my colleagues to support the President's responsible offshore leasing plan and vote in favor of H.R. 6168. Our support of the President's plan is support for the fishermen in Massachusetts and throughout the United States.
I reserve the balance of my time.
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Ms. TSONGAS. Madam Speaker, the number of lease sales don't translate into more drilling on these leases necessarily. Oil companies already hold leases in the Gulf of Mexico that are sitting idle that contain nearly 18 billion barrels of oil, according to the Interior Department. Oil companies should begin drilling on those leases before asking to threaten Massachusetts and other coastal States with new drilling.
Now I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Moran).
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