The 1 year anniversary of the nation’s worst oil spill was observed just two weeks ago but little has been done to improve offshore drilling safety measures to ensure another accident of similar magnitude does not happen again. Nevertheless, the U.S. House of Representatives just passed legislation introduced by Rep. Doc Hastings to speed up the offshore drilling permitting process, despite the fact that more drilling won’t lower U.S. gas prices.
And if removing the safety brakes weren’t enough, H.R. 1230 (the Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act) and companion bills (H.R. 1229 – Putting the Gulf of Mexico Back to Work Act and H.R. 1231 – Reversing President Obama’s Offshore Moratorium Act) would also pave the way to open new areas to oil and gas drilling, including along the Southern Atlantic off the coast of North Carolina, Virginia and Florida as well as California and Massachusetts. Despite the partisan nature of the legislation as introduced (67 Republican co-sponsors, including a dozen from our region), the bill passed the House by a 2 to 1 margin which leaves me wondering if Congressional leaders are suffering from a massive case of collective amnesia with little regard for the:
- 11 workers killed in the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion (and hundreds more still at risk without improved safety laws)
- 4.9 million barrels of toxic oil dumped, including the ‘sizable amount‘ still trapped below the surface
- 1.8 million gallons of toxic dispersants sprayed into the Gulf last summer or
- ongoing environmental and health impacts to workers and residents living in the region.
Some of us may be tempted to ask why Congress would pass bills to perpetuate the problems instead of supporting bills that would provide solutions. One such proposed bill is HR 56 – the Gulf Coast Restoration Act – that would ensure that at least 80% of the fines collected from the spill are returned to the impacted Gulf Coast states for the conservation, protection and restoration of the Gulf coast ecosystem.
However, the answer becomes quite clear when you follow the money trail and realize just how many dollars Big Oil and Big Coal donate to members of Congress. It seems that dolphins, beach goers and fishermen along the Gulf Coast just don’t write checks with that many zeros.