National Commentary

Congressman Moran’s News Commentary

Last week, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the “Restarting Offshore Leasing Now Act,” which would require the federal government to open our shores to drilling and oil exploration. For Virginia, this means that Lease Sale 220 would be approved and oil companies would have full access to drilling off our coastline, including Virginia Beach, sensitive training grounds used by the Navy, and commercial fishing lanes.

Last week, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the “Restarting Offshore Leasing Now Act,” which would require the federal government to open our shores to drilling and oil exploration. For Virginia, this means that Lease Sale 220 would be approved and oil companies would have full access to drilling off our coastline, including Virginia Beach, sensitive training grounds used by the Navy, and commercial fishing lanes.

Opening these areas up to drilling would do nothing to reduce the price of gas nor would it appreciably reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil. The United States holds less than two percent of the world’s oil reserves, yet consumes more than 22 percent. Even if all restricted areas in the U.S. could somehow be brought into production tomorrow, the oil they would yield under the most optimistic scenario is about one million barrels of oil a day. With daily U.S. consumption at approximately 18.8 million barrels, drilling all of our oil would hardly put a dent in our consumption needs, while risking hurting the environment.

In May 2010, the Department of Defense stated that nearly 80 percent of the drilling area proposed to be sold in Virginia under Lease Sale 220 would interfere with U.S. Navy training and operations. Joining with Rep. Connolly, I offered an amendment to last week’s bill giving the President and Secretary of Defense authority to prohibit offshore lease sales that interfere with naval and Department of Defense actions.

The U.S. Atlantic Fleet is based at the Norfolk Naval Base, with thousands of jobs tied to the fleet and its military operations. These jobs and those in the fishing industry would be put at risk if military training areas and fishing lanes were no longer usable due to drilling activities. National Security and economic growth should trump lining the pockets of big oil executives.
Additionally, the bill considered by the House does not include provisions requiring big oil companies to share royalties from their oil and gas extraction activities with the Commonwealth. Under current law, most offshore drilling in federal waters is subject to fees that benefit all 50 states as a whole. That creates a political situation where other states, and by extension their Senators and Congressmen and women, are highly unlikely to sign off on legislation diverting their share of the funds to the individual states that happen to sit adjacent to federal waters beneath which sit oil and gas deposits.

This misguided bill would return us to the days of weaker regulations that existed before the BP oil spill. As News-Press readers know, one year ago BP spilled 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf Coast waters. It’s clear from this legislation that too many failed to learn from this disaster.

Our nation’s dependence on foreign sources of oil is a serious problem that must be addressed. But recklessly opening our shores to drilling, eliminating sensible regulations, and wasting valuable time on the House floor when we should be considering legislation to address the national unemployment rate is not the way to move our country forward. The bottom line is that until we get real about investing in alternative sources of energy, ones that don’t poison our air and water, we will be dependent on a volatile commodity that the rest of the world is competing in price to consume – and of which the U.S. has an grossly insufficient amount to meet even our short term needs.


Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.

 

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