House looks at forcing states to drill offshore . . . or else
House Republicans can’t claim anything if they’re not earning their keep for massive corporations and other special interests whether it be genetically modified food, the banking and finance industry, pharmaceutical companies, the Israel lobby, and, of course, Big Oil.
In keeping with their history of doing the bidding of large interests, House Republicans have just put forward a proposals to impose fees on states that do not allow offshore drilling in state waters off their coasts. The measure is designed to punish states for opposing the Federal government’s plan to expand offshore drilling that began under the Obama administration and is continuing under the Trump administration.
The plan to expand offshore drilling has not only met with resistance from environmental activists, even Democrats and Republicans in offshore states have expressed concern and opposition to the plan after public outcry, a stance that has become more entrenched after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.
The proposal, which was discussed at a hearing held by the House Natural Resources Committee, will allow states to disapprove drilling offshore in up to half of the lease blocks located off their coasts without incurring a penalty. However, any state that disapproves a proposed lease sale that would seek to put more than 50 percent of the lease blocks off limits would have to pay a fee equal to at least 1/10th the estimated government revenue that would have been generated from the lease sales, royalties, and other revenue streams if the drilling had been allowed to take place.
This new proposal would essentially make the US Federal government an extortion arm for Big Oil companies who will extract natural resources from public lands, enjoy the profits from those public resources, and then ship a portion of that oil overseas to China.
For states that do decide to drill, the bill will create a revenue-sharing plan apparently in order to ensure that the only real winners are the oil companies.
The bill did face some opposition, however,
“This bill is a ransom note in a cheap disguise,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (Ariz.), the committee’s top Democrat,. “Penalizing states for protecting their own beaches is what you’d see in a petro-state, not in a modern democracy. The Republicans on this committee seem to think we’re here to do industry’s bidding regardless of the consequences, and until control of Congress changes, this is the best the American people can expect.”
The Washington Post attempts to explain the logic behind the bill’s proponents by writing:
But when coastal states cut off federal waters from offshore development, Republicans note, it deprives the rest of the country of revenue that supports the federal government.
“While states are highly involved in the offshore lease planning process, they do not have a veto power over lease sales,” Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), chair of the Natural Resources subcommittee on energy and mineral resources, said at the hearing Thursday.
What is lost in state-level initiatives to stymie drilling, Gosar added, is that “such attempts to strand federal assets comes at the expense of the American taxpayer.”
Of course, spending $8.8 billion of American taxpayer money on Israel doesn’t ever come up as being “at the expense of the American taxpayer.” Nor does massive amounts of money spent on warmongering NATO, foreign aid, and the war on drugs but that is a topic for another article or series of articles.
But the extortion racket being concocted by House Republicans isn’t necessarily a small price to pay especially since, as Lois Epstein, Arctic program director of the Wilderness Society, states “You could come up with almost any number there. This is very bad policy.”
Indeed, the Interior Secretary would be given incredibly broad discretionary power when “estimating” the value of the oil that could have been sold.
As The Washington Post writes,
At the beginning of the year, the Trump administration initially called for opening nearly every corner of U.S. waters in the Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean for petroleum exploration.
But the plan was met with skepticism and, at times, outright hostility from many local politicians of both parties who still had the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, the largest oil spill in U.S. history, still fresh in their minds. That unplugged well released more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, killing billions of animals of sea creatures and economically and medically imperiling thousands of Gulf of Mexico residents.
In response to the proposal from Trump’s interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, state legislators in New York, South Carolina and Rhode Island began considering legislation to block oil and gas infrastructure from being built in state waters. Leaders in California, which has decades-old restrictions on offshore development since a 1969 oil spill near Santa Barbara, promised to block the transportation of oil from any new offshore rigs through the state.
And by April, New Jersey became the first Atlantic state to adopt a legal barrier to offshore drilling when its new governor, Democrat Phil Murphy, signed a law prohibiting oil exploration in state waters, which extend three miles from shore.
By that month, Zinke acknowledged there was “a lot of opposition” to drilling outside of the Gulf region already dotted with oil rigs. Zinke told Congress that month that he will scale back the offshore administration’s plan.
Among the dissenters in Congress to the Trump administration’s offshore plan are GOP Sens. Lindsay O. Graham of South Carolina, who has called it “horrible public policy,” and Marco Rubio of Florida, who also opposes drilling off the coast of his state.
With the lack of support from the full Republican Senate caucus, it will be difficult to get a measure penalizing states for blocking offshore drilling through the upper chamber, which the GOP controls by a slim 51-to-49 margin.
If the Trump administration is truly looking to increase energy independence, instead of forcing states to drill offshore, it should immediately begin investing in research and development of alternative forms of energy, require that oil produced in the United States stay in the United States, and require that oil drilled on public lands (in cases where this is found acceptable) produces public revenue that flows directly to the Department of the Treasury and back to the American people.