After the BP oil spill in 2010, the Obama administration backed way off of their stated plans to allow for a good bit of offshore drilling in certain mid-Atlantic and southeastern regions, and last summer they released a five-year drilling plan that was conspicuously underwhelming in its permitting proposals. That current plan allows for some drilling in certain areas of the Gulf Coast region and a few sales off of the coast of Alaska in the final couple of years, but restricted access on the eastern seaboard and west coast until the next plan comes due in 2017 — outright denying those coastal states their very rich opportunities for energy and economic development, which could only be helpful in this extended age of embarrassingly sluggish employment growth. Last week, however, Virginia Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine tried to take down the effective “Gone Fishin'” sign the Obama administration has hanging over the issue with a bill that would open up the commonwealth’s coastline to offshore drilling, and he’s feeling pretty good about it:
“I’m not expecting that there will be a challenge in the White House. Maybe I’m naïve about it, but I think our work is in this branch,” Kaine said of Congress on Thursday.
Despite Kaine’s optimism about the bill he and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced this week, the White House has given little impression that it intends to allow drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.
The administration blocks such activity in its offshore leasing plan that runs through 2017. It had originally planned to offer lease sales in the mid-Atlantic, but backed off the idea after the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The White House also has said it won’t budge on offshore drilling, even to get one of the president’s energy goals — a so-called “Energy Security Trust” — off the ground.
The issue of whether or not the White House would automatically nix the idea is moot, though, until the Senate can manage to get an offshore drilling bill through the Senate’s Democratic majority; there are already several other bills out there, and over on the House side, Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings just added his own version to the mix. The Hill again reports:
“The Obama Administration has said ‘no’ to new energy and ‘no’ to new jobs, but House Republicans are once again saying ‘yes.’ This legislation is a pro-energy, pro-jobs plan that will strengthen our economy and increase our energy security by responsibly and safely harnessing our vast offshore energy resources,” Hastings said in a Thursday statement. …
Several red-state Democrats facing tough reelection battles — such Sens. Kay Hagan (N.C.), another coastal Democrat, and Mark Pryor (Ark.) — could also grease the wheels for movement….
Hastings’s bill would require Obama to submit a new five-year leasing plan — which does not need congressional approval — running from 2015 until 2020. The current one, which the White House implemented last year, spans 2012 through 2017.
Hastings’s legislation calls for new drilling off the coasts of Virginia — in the same plot Warner and Kaine have endorsed — as well as South Carolina and Southern California. And 50 percent of areas estimated to contain at least 2.5 billion barrels of oil or 7.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas must also be made available to drilling.
The Obama administration’s current plan comes at the direct opportunity cost of the economic growth and job creation of which we as a country are sorely in need, and I gather that they’ve been hoping they’ll be allowed to just let the issue fly under the radar while they continue to pretend that their ostensible “all of the above” energy plan isn’t really just ambiguous, friendly-sounding code that that really means continuing to provide wildly outsized subsidies for politically-profitable, so-called renewable energy technologies and continuing to unleash undue regulations and restrictions on oh-so-hateful hydrocarbon energies. We’ll see if the idea of getting the administration to ease up on the offshore permitting restrictions gains any traction, but it sounds like the political timing is at least getting increasingly opportune.