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House Scores Triple Play with Drilling Legislation

The GOP-controlled House on Thursday passed the third of three bills to expand natural gas and oil drilling in the U.S. offshore.

In a 243-179 vote, the House approved HR 1231, Reversing President Obama's Moratorium Act. The bill would require the Department of Interior's five-year offshore leasing plans to include areas with the most known oil and gas reserves.

The bill is part of a legislative package introduced in late March by House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA), which are designed to speed up permitting for shallow water and deepwater drilling, jump-start lease sales and lift a ban on new offshore drilling (see Daily GPI, March 30).

The last of the three bills approved by the House directs Interior to set a production goal of 3 million b/d of oil for its five-year leasing plan for 2012-2017. Interior would be required to hold lease sales offshore Southern California, in Alaska's Bristol Bay, as well as in parts of the Arctic Ocean and in the Atlantic Ocean from Maine to North Carolina.

On Wednesday the House voted 263-163 to pass Hastings' Putting the Gulf Back to Work Act (HR 1229), legislation to impose deadlines on the Interior Department to issue or deny a permit application to drill offshore within 30 days of receiving it. The bill allows Interior an additional 30 days to review the permit if necessary. Earlier this month the House passed the first Hastings' bill, HR 1230, Restarting American Offshore Leasing Act Now, by a 266-149 vote (see Daily GPI, May 6).

The bills are unlikely to pass the Senate, which is controlled by the Democrats. The Senate on Thursday heard testimony from executives for ExxonMobil Corp., BP America, Chevron Corp., Shell Oil Co. and ConocoPhillips, who argued that stripping them of tax breaks would do nothing to bring down high oil prices (see related story).

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