House leadership is planning a vote this week on a bill to expand leasing for offshore drilling, the “Congressional Replacement of President Obama’s Energy-Restricting and Job-Limiting Offshore Drilling Plan” (H.R. 6082). As E&E News reports, the bill would “expand future offshore leasing to almost all of the Atlantic Ocean, the southern Pacific and Alaska’s Bristol Bay, all areas that were excluded from Interior’s final five-year leasing plan.”  The bill would also double the number of sales in the Department of Interior’s plan and accelerate by three years sales Interior plans in Alaska’s Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

Some have criticized the bill as a threat to the environment and unfair to coastal states that oppose drilling off their shores. Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), the Natural Resources Committee’s ranking Democrat, stated that the committee has already proposed five similar bills that were “all far too extreme to pass the Senate, and not a single one has been signed into law.”

The bill’s proponents argue that the Interior’s leasing plan restricts drilling on 85% of offshore resources during a time of high gas prices and insecure oil supplies. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar disputes that claim, saying the DOI’s plan “focuses on the areas that contain the overwhelming majority of the resources rather than simply opening areas for the sake of achieving an imaginary acreage threshold.”

Do you support this bill? Why or why not? What would expanded offshore licensing mean for the oil market? For energy security? The environment? The economy?

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