US House of Representatives Votes to Open California and Virginia to Offshore Drilling

offshore drilling sunset semisubmersible
Image (c) Shutterstock/Leo Francini

(Bloomberg) — The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation opening the California and Virginia coasts for offshore oil drilling, defying a presidential veto threat.

The measure, if approved by the Senate, would replace President Barack Obama’s 2012-2017 leasing plan, almost doubling total sales to 29 from 15 and speeding auctions off the north coast of Alaska.

“We can do better than the president’s proposed plan, and our nation deserves better,” said Representative Doc Hastings, a Washington Republican and bill sponsor. “By passing this bill, we are standing up for American energy and American jobs and moving our country forward.”

Republicans and the American Petroleum Institute, the largest trade group representing the energy industry, criticized Obama for limiting access to offshore resources after the record 2010 spill at a BP Plc well in the Gulf of Mexico.

The administration “strongly opposes” the measure and senior Obama advisers would recommend a veto, according to a July 23 statement of administration policy. The Senate, where Democrats have a majority, doesn’t plan to take up similar legislation.

The Interior Department has held two auctions for drilling leases since BP’s Macondo well blow out, killing 11 workers and spewing about 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

In an auction last month, Royal Dutch Shell Plc offered $406.6 million, or 24 percent of all winning bids, to drill in the central Gulf of Mexico, followed by Statoil ASA with $333.3 million, the Interior Department said June 20.

Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp., Apache Corp., LLOG Exploration Offshore LLC, Stone Energy Corp., Noble Energy Inc. and ConocoPhillips were among companies submitting winning bids, according to a list posted June 20 on the Interior Department website.

The bill is H.R. 6082.

– Kasia Klimasinska, Copyright 2012 Bloomberg