Next Congress to seek limits on offshore drilling

18 November 2008 19:55  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The next US Congress will not restore an offshore drilling ban but will impose limits on energy development in the country’s outer continental shelf (OCS) regions, a top House Democrat said on Tuesday.


House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Democrat-Maryland) told a press conference that “there is no effort in Congress to reinstate the moratorium across-the-board”.


He was referring to the 27-year-old congressional moratorium on oil and gas drilling in 85% of US offshore areas that expired on 1 October.


Renewed access to those resource-rich offshore areas has been a longstanding objective of US chemical producers - who are heavily dependent on natural gas as a feedstock - and a broad range of other manufacturers.


However, even as the offshore ban was allowed to lapse - amid protest from many in the House who wanted to maintain the ban for environmental reasons - there was talk that the moratorium would be restored when the new 111th Congress convenes next year.


Hoyer said that will not happen, but he indicated that the expanded Democrat majority in Congress will seek to put restrictions on offshore energy development.


“There is an effort under way to look at further ways to delineate areas that will be open to drilling,” he said.


“There is no intent that we should return to the same position as of September 30th,” he said, referring to the last in-force day of the moratorium, “but there will be a discussion on what parameters there should be on when and where drilling can be pursued.”


“We’re looking at parameters, not at restoring the moratorium,” Hoyer said.


A Democrat-sponsored energy bill passed in the House earlier this year sought to bar development of energy resources within the first 50 miles (80km) of the 200-mile wide US outer continental shelf region. 


It also would have barred drilling in the second 50 miles unless coastal state legislatures gave approval.  That bill, which failed to advance in the Senate, was seen by industry officials as a thinly disguised effort to re-impose a drilling ban.


The second-highest Democrat in the House behind Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Democrat-California), Hoyer said the 111th Congress also would focus on increasing US alternative and renewable energy resources and technology.


In answering a question, he said it would not be possible to make the US independent of foreign oil within ten or 15 years, “but we can substantially reduce our dependence on petroleum-based products until one day oil will disappear”.


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By: Joe Kamalick
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