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Capps votes against new oil leases on the Central Coast

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Central Coast Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) voted against the “so-called” Congressional Replacement of the President Obama’s Energy-Restricting and Job-Limiting Offshore Drilling Plan Act (HR 6082). The legislation passed the House 253-170 Wednesday to the dismay of many Democrats. Capps called it a “reckless offshore drilling bill.” The bill moves to the Senate early next week.

“For the 11th time in 18 months the leadership of the House has brought to a vote legislation that unnecessarily opens up nearly every last piece of the public’s lands to drilling,” said Capps. “And once again, the Central Coast is the target for this giant giveaway to Big Oil. Central Coast residents and small businesses have made their views clear for decades, they don’t want more drilling. They know our coastline is critically important to our local economy and to our quality of life to risk another spill.”

In a lengthy statement the Congresswoman expressed frustration when House leadership denied debate on her amendments. “My straightforward amendments to this bill could have made it better,” she wrote. “We know there are real concerns with allowing new drilling from these decades-old platforms sitting in the Santa Barbara Channel, and that the U.S. Air Force does not support drilling near Vandenberg Air Force Base.”

The four amendments were drafted to address “real concerns” of the public. First, mandating lease sales off the Central Coast would have been taken out of the bill. The Secretary of the Interior would have been required to certify the integrity of the aging oil platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel, and a bar on drilling affecting the mission of bases like Vandenberg Air Force Base would have been resticted. Last, Capps wanted new sanctions against violations of environmental law and regulation.

Speaking before the House Capps said, “Mr. Chairman, here we are, voting once again to mandate new offshore drilling in areas where it simply isn't wanted.” For the Congresswoman the bill ignores facts. “The fact that we already make more than 75 percent of the offshore oil and gas resources available for drilling; the fact that domestic oil production is at an 18-year high; and the fact that we have more rigs that are drilling in the United States than in the rest of the world combined,” she pointed out.

HR 6082 forces the lease sales of offshore tracts. From the bill’s language, its purpose is to create a “congressional plan” to replace President Obama’s proposed Outer Continental Shelf Oil & Gas Leasing Program. The plan will “conduct additional oil and natural gas lease sales.” This promotion of “energy development” is for “job creation,” and increased production will “ensure a more secure energy future.”

For the Central Coast, as the bill currently reads: the Secretary of the Interior “… shall offer for sale leases of tracts in the Santa Maria and Santa Barbara/Ventura Basins of the Southern California OCS (outer continental shelf) Planning Area as soon as practicable, but not later than December 31, 2013.”

The Obama program, that the bill would replace, schedules oil and gas offshore leases in the six OCS areas from 2012 to 2017. This management plan seeks to consider the “economic, social, and environmental values” while developing offshore energy resources. The “guiding principles” are defined as the “diligent development” of resources for “energy security” and to be “grounded in the lessons learned” from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.

“Instead of addressing the real issues in offshore drilling,” says Congresswoman Capps, “like the need to adopt the safety recommendations of the nonpartisan Oil Spill Commission, this bill seeks to compound the problems by mandating new drilling all over the place. HR 6082, also, cavalierly dismisses the legitimate concerns raised by the people most affected by this mandated new drilling idea — my constituents.”

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