House representatives from Florida and California, including local Congresswoman Lois Capps, spearheaded a rally Thursday on Capitol Hill against a two-part effort to discontinue a moratorium on offshore drilling for oil and natural gas. Lifting the ban would effectively allow carte blanche on any oil well or gas deposit at least three miles from the 85 percent of American coastline currently off-limits.
Congress first struck down a last-minute move to drop the moratorium outright, proposed by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), by a vote of 276-141. Not long after, the real issue of the dayâ€”whether to amend natural gas drilling out of the existing lawâ€”proved a near miss for Republican lawmakers. The amendment was defeated 217-203.
Though most of these deposits sit in the Gulf of Mexico, several potential drilling sites exist off the coast of central California, including three wells west of the Nipomo Dunes. The moratorium, drafted in 1981, prohibits new leases for extraction or exploratory drilling. A similar amendment met with an identical fate last year, though supporters picked up an additional 46 votes this time around.
â€œAt the end of the day, arguments for new drilling didnâ€™t hold up to careful scrutiny,â€? Capps says in a faxed statement. â€œWhile I am pleased my colleagues recognize the need to preserve the bipartisan Congressional moratorium on new offshore drilling, Congress is wasting valuable time repeatedly debating flawed drilling proposals. We should be moving legislation that would increase energy efficiency efforts and promoting greater use of renewable and alternative energy sources. â€œ
In the midst of the present petrol predicament, proponents of the ban asserted that exploring new sources of natural gas might lower prices, triggering more cost-effective and ecologically-friendly developments in the automotive industry. Pennsylvania congressman John Peterson, who initially introduced the amendment to drop natural gas from the quarter-century-old moratorium, argued that the threat of extracting the resource poses less of a threat than offshore oil drilling.
â€œThey say â€˜Well, weâ€™re only looking for natural gas,â€™ but the two often come up together,â€? a spokesperson with Cappsâ€™ office says in regard to the notion of allowing exploratory drilling for natural gas deposits. Democrats believe as long as gas prices stay vaulted, environmental laws will remain on the Washington firing range for the duration of the summer. âˆ†