New Bill Would Force EPA to Move on Off-Shore Drilling Permits

A U.S. House Committee passed legislation on Thursday, June 2, that would speed up the permitting process for Shell Oil to drill off Alaska’s coast.  The bill pushed by Republicans gained the support of five Democrats and passed the Energy and Commerce Committee 34 to 14.  It would force the Environmental Protection Agency to move on permits, and would loosen air pollution standards for offshore drilling projects.

The bill also blocks challenges of some air permits to the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board.

Shell says its plans for drilling offshore in the Arctic have been hamstrung by the permitting process, but federal officials say it’s up to the company to comply with regulations before it gets the green light.

That same day at a House subcommittee hearing, a Republican Congressman from Ohio, Representative Bill Johnson, accused the Obama Administration of being incompetent. He asked Shell executive vice president David Lawrence why he thinks permits have had delays.  Lawrence said it’s a problem of coordination – and money.

Representative Johnson disagreed that permitting departments need more funding or staff, and repeated his claim that it’s intentional.  But the top Democrat on the Energy Committee, Representative Henry Waxman, says Shell’s permits have NOT been “ping ponged” back and forth.  He says they’ve been efficiently issued, but that Shell keeps changing its project plans, causing the delays.

Despite Democratic objections, the bill pushing for a faster permitting process off Alaska’s coast will now go to the House floor, where it’s likely to pass.  It’s part of a series of bills Republicans are pushing to limit the EPA and Obama Administration’s authority in permitting.

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