For lease: One ocean



Energy hardliners in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate continue to duel over specifics in a bill giving the green light to offshore drilling.

California senator Diane Feinstein took the floor on July 31, hoping to curb a movement to accept Congress' permissive version of the proposed law. That edition of the bill aimed to lift, entirely, the 25-year-old offshore drilling moratorium currently protecting the vast majority of American coastline. Instead, the Senate adopted a scaled-back plan to just lease out 8.3 million acres in the east and central Gulf of Mexico.

The revised go-ahead passed the Senate floor on August 1 by a vote of 71-25. Congressional authors of the original bill, namely valley Republican Richard Pombo, protested the changes, arguing that they would achieve too little in alleviating the current fuel crisis. Santa Barbara congresswoman Lois Capps argued against any lifting of the drilling ban, but nevertheless saw the latest in a series of attempts pass through the House in a narrow and landmark June vote.

"Without a concrete commitment from the House leaders that they will take the Senate bill and pass it without amendment, I cannot support this bill," Feinstein said during the discussion.

A few coastal senators, again, threatened to filibuster if the House fails to accept the revised bill.


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