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Capps Calls Legislation to Streamline Oil Drilling Off Alaska a ‘Real Disaster’ for California

Congresswoman says House-approved bill would limit the state's ability to protect its air quality

The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation Wednesday that would allow fewer obstacles to oil drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf of the coast of Alaska.

The bill, put forward by Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., passed by a vote of 253-166.

The Jobs and Energy Permitting Act, House Resolution 2021, deals with two leases off Alaska and would require the Environmental Protection Agency to approve or deny a permit within six months.

The legislation must be approved by the U.S. Senate, with Democrats in the majority.

A statement from Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, issued Wednesday said that while the legislation is meant to address a limited problem relating to the coast of Alaska, the Jobs and Energy Permitting Act would affect more than 20 coastal states, including California.

Capps offered an amendment to H.R. 2021 to preserve California’s ability to enact common-sense air quality protections overseeing offshore drilling operations. The amendment was defeated in a near party-line vote of 180-242 during the legislation’s consideration on the floor of the House.

“The so-called Jobs and Energy Permitting Act is a real disaster for California’s air quality,” Capps said. “We know the passage of this legislation will take away the ability of our state and local air district to continue implementing common-sense rules governing the amount of pollution arising from offshore drilling.”

California Air Resources Board chairman Mary Nichols also expressed concern about the bill, stating the organization’s opposition to the bill in a letter sent to House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday.

“By undoing the principles of local control and equal treatment between onshore and offshore sources, the bill increases the regulatory burden on existing California businesses to meet air quality mandates,” Nichols wrote.

Others welcomed the changes the bill could bring.  Noozhawk checked in with Tupper Hull, Vice President of Strategic Communications with the Western States Petroleum Association.  Though the association’s focus is primarily state legislation and regulation, Hull said the group has long supported increased access to U.S. energy resources as a means of enhancing the nation’s energy security and benefiting American consumers.  “The petroleum industry on the West Coast has produced more than 1 billion barrels of oil from facilities off the California coast over the past 40 plus years without a serious accident or incident,” he said.  “All Californians would benefit from streamlined permitting processes and increased access to domestic energy resources.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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