WASHINGTON (May 5, 2011) – Republicans passed the first part of their “Oil Above All” energy plan today that will make oil drilling less safe, while protecting billions in tax breaks for the largest oil companies. The bill passed today would use shoddy, pre-BP-spill environmental review to accelerate drilling lease sales already scheduled by the Obama administration, and would open up new areas off Virginia’s beaches to new drilling.
During the debate, House Republicans unanimously rejected the consideration of a counter-proposal by Democrats to revoke a tax credit for the oil industry normally given to manufacturers of goods here in America. Republicans also rejected an amendment by Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) that would have removed provisions in the bill that would have “deem” the safety environmental review done in 2007 prior to the BP spill to be sufficient for new offshore oil and gas leasing.
House Republicans also refused to protect Naval operations in Virginia, where live fire is used to train U.S. Navy Seals and other troops. And they rejected a proposal to keep here in America any oil and gas gained by these drilling leases, if opened or accelerated.
Democrats, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, unveiled earlier today the beginning of an alternative energy plan that would offer a plan authored by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to actually decrease prices at the pump immediately, which the Republican bill does not. The Democratic energy package would fight back against price gouging and close oil company loopholes that would cost taxpayers up to $53 billion. The bill would also end tax breaks for oil companies, of which the five largest earned more than $35 billion in profits in the first three months of 2011.
“Republicans want to keep grandfathering in tax breaks for the most profitable companies in the world, while cutting the funds to help grandma with her prescriptions,” said Rep. Markey, the Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee, from which these bills originated. “Republicans are playing favorites with an industry that does the American people no favors by continuing to protect tax breaks. Republicans are paying for these tax breaks for oil companies by erecting a drilling rig on the Medicare program, poking holes in our nation’s safety net for seniors.”
“Today’s vote was an act of willful amnesia, one that deliberately ignored the frightening and important lessons of the Deepwater Horizon disaster,” Rep. Holt said. “Last summer, America learned that single oil spill can dump millions of barrels of oil into the ocean, contaminate nearly a thousand miles of coastline, and close nearly 100,000 square miles to fishing. In light of this alarming evidence, Congress should demand greater scrutiny of offshore drilling permits, rather than turning a blind eye to the regulatory flaws that allowed the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the first place.”
Rep. Markey held a press conference today with Leader Pelosi and Rep. Bishop on tax payer subsidies to big oil companies and rising gas prices. A full transcript of the event can be found HERE .