Even as the Senate grilled oil company CEO’s earlier this month about the uber-profitable industry’s $4 billion-a-year taxpayer subsidies, Obama promised to bring more oil and gas reserves online and the House quietly passed HR1231, a bill otherwise known as “Reversing President Obama's Offshore Moratorium Act”.
On Thursday, May 12th, the House passed HR1231 to literally force oil drilling off most of America’s coasts. An amendment by Representative Corinne Brown of Florida which would make permanent the current moratorium on drilling, which protects the eastern Gulf of Mexico until 2022, was voted down twice. Republican Representative Bill Young of Florida, a longtime proponent of protecting the eastern Gulf of Mexico voted for the final bill even though it did not include language protecting the Gulf.
And, what about over in the Senate? On May 16th the bill was sent to the Senate with no further action taken. The eastern Gulf and America’s pristine coasts need folks in the Senate to push back. Senator Mary Landrieu may look to insert language equivalent to HR1231 into her bill, S861, which could decide the use and destination of BP’s Clean Water Act fines and penalties. Regarding the CWA fines and penalties, competing Senate bills have been filed by Senators Landrieu/Vitter and Senator Bill Nelson of Florida.
While both bills direct money from BP’s fines to the Gulf, there are some important distinctions. The language in Senator Nelson’s bill very pointedly does not create a flow of funds via the governors’ of the Gulf states as Senator Landrieu’s bill does. This is especially important language for Florida, where serious doubt exists that the Governor would accept the funds, or at the very least, use funds for appropriate environmental restoration.
Senator Nelson has strongly supported protection of Florida’s precious coastline against drilling. Please contact Senator Nelson today at (202) 224-5274 to ask him to:
1. keep the eastern Gulf moratorium in place,
2. require that BP’s Clean Water Act fines and penalties go toward restoration,
3. require creation and funding of the Regional Citizens Advisory Council (RCAC). This watchdog group will provide a layer of transparency and accountability
that will force oil industry and regulatory agencies to respond to this body when drilling is proposed.
We need a champion in the Senate to help protect the Gulf. Let’s make sure Senator Nelson is that champion.
Cathy Harrelson is GRN's Florida Organizer.