US House proposes ban on offshore drilling
The Democrat-led US House Natural Resources Committee passed sweeping legislation on September 9 that, if passed, would prohibit most offshore drilling.
US president Joe Biden in January put a pause on new federal drilling leases pending further environmental review. The administration has since moved forward with offering new leases after a federal judge ruled that states would be harmed financially by the moratorium.
The House Natural Resources Committee approved its part of a 10-year budget reconciliation plan before the broader House of Representatives. The committee's plan includes sweeping legislation related to the energy sector.
“Among other measures, the committee approved historic investments in protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Outer Continental Shelf from future fossil fuel drilling, paving the way for more sustainable economic development in both areas,” the House committee relayed.
Biden’s climate plan has come under scrutiny following his pleas for more oil from OPEC+ to help alleviate stubbornly-high retail gasoline prices.
In a letter to US interior secretary Deb Haaland, Republican US congressman Garret Graves of Louisiana, a member of the House committee, and Republican US congressman Steve Scalise, also from Louisiana, urged the government to do more to support the fossil fuels industry.
“Based on history, any delay in resuming outer Continental Shelf production will result in two outcomes: higher gasoline prices for motorists across the country, and greater dependence on [Russian president] Vladimir Putin to supply energy to the US,” they wrote. “Obviously, neither of these outcomes are advisable or desirable.”
Russia is the eighth-largest crude oil exporter to the US, though imports are up about 25% from a year ago. Western powers, meanwhile, are concerned by Moscow’s tight grip over energy supplies, particularly natural gas deliveries to Europe.
Elsewhere in the broad-based measure from the House is a call to increase “outdated fossil fuel royalty rates” and extending those to cover methane emissions. That too brought expressions of concerns from Republicans, who tend to be more supportive of fossil fuels than their counterparts across the aisle.
“Given the magnitude of the fee, natural gas utilities will likely seek cost recovery from rate regulators which then results in increased costs for consumers at every income level,” said Kevin Cramer, a Republican representing North Dakota.
Under an order from Biden, the Environmental Protection Agency aims to propose tougher rules on methane emissions from the oil and gas sector later this month.
Meanwhile, a recent report from the Energy Information Administration finds that escalating costs of natural gas are pushing utilities to use coal instead.