From today’s WSJ: “Pelosi’s Drilling Ruse”
The ruse began late Monday night, when Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a 290-page bill and then waved it through less than 24 hours later, 236-189. “Closed” rules prohibited the GOP from offering alternatives. The real game was to give vulnerable Democrats political cover by letting them vote for more offshore drilling — while also making more drilling all but impossible, thus appeasing the party’s green wing.
Sure enough, only 13 Democrats voted against the bill; even antidrilling purists like Ed Markey found something to like. Nearly all the members of the Blue Dog coalition, who had been on the cusp of revolt this summer because of Mrs. Pelosi’s obstructionism, also fell in line. They now have their campaign cover story.
The bill would allow exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf, but only in waters 100 or more miles out in the Atlantic and Pacific. The farthest reaches of the OCS contain resources, but undersea geography and deep water make development very — if not prohibitively — expensive. Areas closer to land are far richer and easier to access. Conveniently, Mrs. Pelosi’s bill imposes a 50-mile “buffer zone” around the country.
Coastal states could pass laws to allow drilling between 50 and 100 miles. However, the bill bars revenue sharing with adjacent states. Democrats know how important such a booster shot could be for state budgets, so they took away the incentive for states to opt in and approve new drilling. The bill also retains a leasing ban in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, which has the most immediate potential in the lower 48. Oil-and-gas reserves are known to be abundant, production systems are nearby in Texas and Louisiana, and even the Senate’s paltry “gang of 10″ proposal would liberate the Gulf.