A bill to allow new oil leases to be drilled in federal waters, including off the coast of Santa Barbara, passed Thursday in the House of Representatives on mostly partisan lines. Though it’s unlikely that the bill will go anywhere in the Senate, the vote marks the fifth attempt on the part of pro-industry politicians in four years to pass energy measures. Congressmember Lois Capps took to the House floor to oppose a bill that would “remove federal government obstacles” to produce domestic energy.
Arguing oil production is already very high and that the bill was a repackage of bills that had already failed, Capps said in a statement the focus should be on “innovation and clean energy in the future.” Capps offered amendments to the bill, including ones that would eliminate new drilling off the Central Coast, implement regulatory requirements, and study the environmental impacts of offshore fracking. They were blocked by the House majority, which prohibited amendments from being considered on the floor. Similar legislation has been consistently passed in the House and died in the Senate.
Debate about drilling three miles off the coast in state waters heated up this summer when a bill — proposed by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson — to eliminate offshore drilling specifically at Tranquillon Ridge died in the Assembly in August. The issue saw high emotions from both the bill’s supporters and oil industry representatives, who had a presence in Sacramento. The underwater formation known as the T-Ridge, located off Vandenberg Air Force Base, is the only region where drilling in state waters could definitely occur because of an exemption in state law that allows new leases to be issued if state reserves are being depleted by federal wells. Sen. Jackson intends to return with a new bill next year.