The House Natural Resources Committee Wednesday voted out legislation to approve and implement the terms of the U.S.-Mexico transboundary hydrocarbons agreement that governs the development of shared oil and gas resources along the countries’ maritime boundary in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM).

The bill (HR 1613) would lift the current moratorium on ban on exploration and production activities in nearly 1.5 million acres of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf, which are estimated to contain as much as 172 million bbl of oil and 304 Bcf of natural gas.

The agreement, which officials from the two nations signed in February, sets guidelines for U.S. producers and Mexico state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) to jointly develop the boundary-hugging reserves (see Daily GPI,Feb. 22, 2012). If consensus cannot be reached, the agreement establishes a process through which U.S. producers and Pemex may individually develop resources on each side of the border while protecting each nation’s interests and resources.

The House bill is headed to the House floor for a vote, said Committee spokesman Michael Tadeo. “I’m optimistic that this legislation will pass the House of Representatives and continue on its path toward becoming law,” said Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC).

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee; and Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the ranking member of the panel, have offered similar legislation in the upper chamber, a spokesman for the committee said. The agreement must be approved by lawmakers in both countries.

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