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House Likely To Pass Offshore Drilling Bill

The House was expected to approve a comprehensive energy measure Tuesday night that would allow states to permit oil and gas drilling 50 miles off the coast. 

But Democrats were not expected to attract significant GOP support, even though Republicans have made increased domestic oil production their mantra on the campaign trail this fall. 

“I don’t know why my House colleagues can’t take yes for an answer,” said Rep. Gene Green, a Texas Democrat with significant oil interests in his district who helped House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) craft the legislation. 

The bill faces long odds in the Senate because budget rules forced House Democrats to bar states from sharing the royalties generated by any new drilling. 

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), who helped craft a bipartisan compromise that grants states a share of the revenue, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that the House legislation would not “see the light of day” in the Senate. 

And even Green acknowledged that “it’s a problem,” before hinting the Senate could restore revenue sharing because it is not constrained by the same balanced-budget rules House Democrats adopted. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was coy, telling reporters only, “I hope I can work off of the piece of legislation the House sends me.” 

Overall, the legislation would rescind $18 billion in tax breaks from the oil industry to fund a series of incentives for renewable energy development. The measure also seeks to collect $7 billion in royalties from oil drillers in the Gulf Coast to pay for a number of clean energy programs, as well as the popular federal Low-Income Heating Assistance Program and other programs. 

Whatever the legislation’s fate in the Senate, Democrats suffered a key defection on Tuesday when the influential Natural Resources Defense Council opposed it. 

“The House energy bill falls short of what Americans really need to meet our energy challenges,” NRDC President Frances Beinecke said. “We want Congress to make sure that Big Oil doesn’t continue to load us up with dirty energy that overshadows the clean, renewable, homegrown solutions Americans need.”