President Obama Monday signaled that he would veto a House Republican bill proposing an expansion of federal lease sales during 2012-2017 if the legislation should make it to his desk.

The legislation (HR 6082) calls for 28 lease sales to be held during the 2012-2017 period in eight OCS regions, including the Mid-Atlantic off Virginia’s coast, Southern California, the Western Gulf of Mexico (GOM), the Central GOM, the portion of the Eastern GOM not under a congressional moratorium, and the Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea and North Aleutian Basin areas in Alaska. An additional lease sale off the coast of South Carolina was added last week during mark-up of the bill by the House Natural Resources Committee (see Daily GPI, July 19).

The Obama administration’s final leasing program proposes 15 potential lease sales in six offshore areas during the same five-year period, primarily in the GOM and offshore Alaska (see Daily GPI, June 29). The program has drawn fire from the oil and gas industry because it does not offer any lease sales off the Atlantic or Pacific coasts.

Republicans contend that the Obama administration’s five-year final leasing program takes the nation back to 2008, when two moratoriums were in place, and places 85% of U.S. offshore areas off limits to producers. Democrats counter that the administration’s plan makes available 75% of the offshore oil and gas resources.

In threatening to veto the GOP bill, the White House said HR 6082 “would be directed without secretarial discretion to determine whether those areas are appropriate for leasing through balanced consideration of factors such as resource potential, state and local views and concerns, and the maturity of infrastructure needed to support oil and gas development, including in the event of an oil spill,” and it “would mandate OCS lease sales along the East and West coasts” that have been off limits to producers for years.

Moreover, “the bill…would establish unworkable deadlines and substantive and procedural limitations on important environmental review and other analysis that is critical to comply with laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Historic Preservation Act and the Clean Water Act,” the White House said.

“If the president were presented with HR 6082, his senior advisors would recommended that he veto the bill,” according to the statement of administration policy.

The House is expected to begin debate on the bill Tuesday (July 24), with a vote to come Wednesday. While the legislation is likely to pass the House, its fate in the Senate is more uncertain.

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