This week I voted in strong support of American energy independence, by supporting the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act, H.R. 4761.
With passage of this critical energy legislation, we will lower fuel costs and decrease our dependence on foreign oil & gas reserves. At long last, we are moving forward with a sensible policy that meets our nation’s needs for energy while protecting our environment and natural resources. Even the editorial board of the Washington Post recognized in an article on June 28 the need to remove the outdated moratorum on offshore exploration. The working familes of WNC are the real winners, and I am proud to have supported them by supporting this legislation.
The legislation amends the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Act by permitting oil or gas leasing between 50 miles and 200 miles off the U.S. coast. The existing moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration would be made permanent for areas up to 50 miles offshore, unless individual states choose to opt out of that moratorium. H.R. 4761 further shares revenues from the offshore leases with local governments: 63.75% of revenues from any exploration within 12 miles of the coastline (which can occur only through state opt-out) will go to states and local governments themselves; 42.5% of revenues from exploration between 12 and 200 miles of the coastline will also be shared in this way.
Most importantly for WNC, H.R. 4761 would also provide a stream of financial support to partially fund reauthorization for the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act – resulting in up to $50 million annually from 2007-20012. I have strongly supported reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools program, while fighting the Administration’s proposal to sell off more than 300,000 acres of national forest lands to pay for it. H.R. 4761 is a crucial step in reauthorizing the Secure Rural Schools program, and it was taken without selling off a single acre of national forest land. I hope that the Administration learns from our example.
H.R. 4761 passed the House by a vote of 232 to 187 on June 29th, and will now be sent to the Senate for its consideration.