Examiner Editorial: Pelosi’s sham offshore-drilling bill is an oily dodge

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claims her so-called energy-production bill, passed by the House of Representatives on Tuesday night, allows more oil and natural-gas drilling and production off America’s coasts. The reality is this sham legislation effectively keeps the 26-year-old congressional drilling ban in place for 85 percent of all offshore petroleum reserves.

Pelosi’s measure allows virtually no drilling within 100 miles of U.S. coastlines, yet that’s where most of the untapped resources are. Incredibly, that’s not the worst of it.

Pelosi’s bill leaves in place the endless delays created via lawsuits filed by rabid environmentalists. U.S. Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., calls this problem the bill’s “litigation loophole.” Shadegg said he and other House conservatives wanted an amendment that would have consolidated into one court all environmental lawsuits against new drilling, and set a one-year limit for trial and appeals.

That’s a reasonable approach, as multiple lawsuits aimed at common issues are consolidated frequently, as was the case with suits filed against telecommunications companies participating in foreign intelligence surveillance. The consolidations of the anti-oil lawsuits are necessary because, Shadegg said, environmental groups try to block every new lease. They challenged the entire 2007-12 national offshore leasing program.

This year, they challenged all 487 leases in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska. They challenged all seismic activity at all 748 leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. And for 78 onshore leases awarded in July for exploration in New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, lawsuits have been filed to block each one.

But Pelosi, D-San Francisco, refused to allow a vote on Shadegg’s amendment, leading Shadegg to call the whole process “a charade. It’s a backroom deal with their environmental lawyer friends.” Even without the open invitation to lawsuits, the bill is a bad deal. We’ve noted before that it shares not a penny of revenue from new oil leases with the states off whose shores the drilling would occur. This provides no incentive for states to give the necessary approval for drilling to occur between 50 miles and 100 miles from their coasts.

But for a perfect indication of just how cynical a ploy Pelosi pulled, consider that Republicans on Tuesday night offered a motion to “recommit” her bill so it could be replaced with a bipartisan, compromise energy bill co-sponsored by 39 Democrats. Twenty-four of those Democrats, including lead author Rep. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii effectively voted against their own legislation. Not even the sneakiest lawyer alive could possibly explain that logic.

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