The House late Wednesday voiced its opposition to a provision in the energy bill calling for the federal government to inventory oil and natural gas resources in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

By a vote of 229 to 182, House lawmakers voted out a motion, sponsored by Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), to instruct House-Senate conferees to strike the proposed OCS inventory from the broad energy bill, which is still being negotiated in conference committee.

The motion also directed conferees to remove a proposal from the bill that would require the secretary of the Department of Commerce to respond in an accelerated fashion to appeals under the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) whenever states object to activities in waters near their coastal boundaries.

Capps and other lawmakers from coastal states fear that an OCS inventory, which also would catalog oil and gas resources in offshore areas where drilling has been banned for years, would be the first step towards overturning the congressional and presidential moratoria on exploration and production activity off the West, East and Florida coasts.

A provision supporting the OCS inventory surfaced in the draft conference report on the energy bill, even though neither the House nor the Senate energy measures included language to this effect. The report also included Senate language that would set a much firmer deadline for the Commerce secretary to rule on CZMA appeals than was recommended in the House bill — 270 days from the time an appeal is published in the Federal Register.

The natural gas industry favors the Senate’s accelerated timetable for CZMA appeal rulings, but Capps claims it would weaken the state coastal zone protection laws.

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