H.R 2231, a bill that would create an extreme expansion of offshore drilling along the coasts of the United States, is rapidly moving toward passage in the House of Representatives. Yesterday, the House voted on several proposed amendments to the bill. A full and final vote may come today.
One of the amendments proposed yesterday came from Alcee Hastings, a Democrat from Florida, one of the states imperiled by the oil spill caused by the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig. Hastings cited that environmental disaster as he argued in favor of his amendment, asking:
“Have we already forgotten the consequences of lax regulation? I know the gulf coast hasn’t. For many Americans, the image of more than 200 million gallons of oil spilling into the gulf, an area of oil spill and oil slick that if superimposed in this region would have gone from my district in northern Virginia all the way to New York City. It threatened America’s largest fishery, jeopardizing tourism, wreaking havoc with the region’s entire economy.
Sadly, the magnitude of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill might have been mitigated had BP and Transocean simply been required to do what this amendment requires – to comply with the basic environmental standards established to prevent such disasters from happening in the first place. Yet here we are 3 years later, and this Congress still has not taken a single action to improve drilling safety because the House majority has blocked every attempt. Now they want to make matters worse by gutting NEPA protections…
Considering that all other major projects, even transit projects, with clear environmental benefits must undergo an Environmental Impact Statement, it is absurd to exclude from analysis activities that have the potential to destroy entire economies and ecosystems. For example, why is it that northern Virginia’s Rail to Dulles project, a public project I oversaw, had to go through an extensive full 2-year environmental review, yet a privately-owned oil rig in the gulf was exempted from that same process? It makes no sense.
The BP spill was preventable, Mr. Chairman. Unfortunately, gulf coast residents will pay that price for that poor decision to waive an environmental review for decades to come as we continue to clean up the worst environmental disaster in our Nation’s history.”
The Hastings amendment would have restored the integrity of environmental impact assessments to their current levels. H.R. 2331 would restrict the scope of those assessments, in the interest of rushing approval of new offshore drilling operations – even those in dangerous deepwater conditions such as those that caused the BP rig to explode and sink in the Gulf of Mexico.
233 members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted to ignore the lessons of the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling disaster. All but 9 of them were Republicans They voted against the Hastings amendment. Their names are listed below.
(Let’s take a minute to note a few exceptions to the partisan rule on this vote. There were three Republicans who voted in favor of the Hastings amendment to protect coastal states from risky offshore drilling: Mike Fitzpatrick, Walter Jones, and Dave Reichert. There were also nine Democrats who voted against sensible environmental safeguards on offshore drilling, voting against the Hastings amendment: John Barrow, Jim Costa, Henry Cuellar, Pete Gallego, Gene Green, Jim Matheson, Bill Owens, Collin Peterson, and Filemon Vela)