Republicans push drilling plan to pay for roads, bridges


House Republican leaders today unveiled a plan to expand oil and gas drilling in the nation’s lands and waters and use the royalties from those projects to pay for better bridges and roads.

Republicans hope to leverage the proposals to boost domestic energy production by tying them to the transportation authorization measure.

The legislation, which is expected to get a House debate and vote before the end of the year, also will give Republicans political talking points — and an alternative to the Obama administration’s jobs and infrastructure proposal — when they head home for a week-long Thanksgiving recess. The Senate rejected a key part of President Barack Obama’s jobs plan — a measure to spend $60 billion on infrastructure projects — earlier this month.

“The president says he wants more money for infrastructure. He also says he supports more American-made energy,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “So instead of spending more tax dollars on another short-term stimulus that in my opinion won’t work, our bill links job-creating energy production and infrastructure together.”

The so-called “American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act” would open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refute to oil and gas drilling, while forcing the Interior Department to issue commercial leases for oil shale development on public lands. The energy and infrastructure package also includes a proposal by Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, to force the government to sell drilling leases in parts of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, while also lifting a congressional ban on exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

That statutory ban bars drilling in the eastern Gulf through 2022, unless Congress changes the law. The Obama administration also is not planning on selling any new drilling rights in the Pacific or Atlantic oceans from 2012 through 2017, the next five-year leasing period for the outer continental shelf.

The Republican bill would reauthorize funding for federal transportation programs that are otherwise set to expire early next year. The GOP bill would extend them for another five years. By drawing on federal oil and gas royalties as a source of funding, the measure also would fill a gap between revenue collected from a federal gasoline tax for the national highway trust fund and the cost of nationwide transportation projects.

“It will help support long-term job growth, lower energy prices for families and small businesses and provide resources quickly for our highest-priority infrastructure projects,” Boehner said today.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., the House Natural Resources Committee chairman who authored the Arctic refuge drilling proposal, said the entire package would do away with “numerous government roadblocks and barriers that stand in the way of U.S. energy development.”

Hastings cast the bill as a job-creator:

“These measures will not only create new energy jobs, but will generate significant federal revenue that can help pay for infrastructure improvements, thereby creating even more jobs.”

But Democratic lawmakers criticized Republicans for pushing controversial drilling proposals as a way of paying for transportation spending. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the head of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that has advanced an alternative highway bill, said the House GOP leaders’ approach threatens to capsize the legislation.

“We need to pay for the surface transportation bill in a way that is not contentious and does not threaten jobs,” Boxer said. “The proposal by Republican leadership would mire a very popular surface transportation bill in controversy, and it would directly threaten many thousands of fishing, tourism and recreation-related jobs.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., complained that the Republicans had no “real details on the level of investment or how they intend to pay for their bill.”

Although the bill could easily pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, it faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where Boxer’s separate transportation bill is pending and where proposals to allow drilling in the Arctic refuge have been widely panned.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there are an estimated 10.4 billion barrels of oil harbored in the refuge’s coastal plain, which, at peak production, could supply the U.S. with up to 1.45 million barrels of oil daily.

Environmentalists say the potential oil gains from drilling in ANWR would be small and aren’t worth the risks of damage to wildlife and habitat.

Drilling advocates last prevailed in advancing an ANWR drilling plan through the Senate in 2005, when the chamber voted narrowly to add the proposal to an unrelated budget bill. But the drilling provisions ultimately were stripped out of the measure, after House Republican leaders encountered resistance from more than two dozen moderates in their party.

In recent years, ANWR drilling advocates have tried new tactics to make the idea more attractive. A recent gambit by Alaska’s senators — Republican Lisa Murkowski and Democrat Mark Begich — would have allowed oil companies to use horizontal drilling techniques to explore the refuge’s reserves as long as their footprint was not within the federally protected area.

Jennifer Dlouhy

20 Responses

  1. steve says:

    If your scared stay at home.

  2. Florian Schach says:

    As government is making strides to push this bill through there is concern of how long we can keep people employed with these infrastructure projects. In Texas the American jobs act is supposed to create an estimated 38,000 local infrastructure and even more estimated for the long term unemployed ( . But what happens when we are finished building what needs to be built. While the act gets a few thousand people back to work there is still the issue of having a long term plan in order to make the kind of economic recovery that would let Americans breathe just a little easier. The same remains true for the drilling initiative to pay for the infrastructure as that too is a resource whose life span is actually somewhat unknown.

  3. coldtruth says:

    I support this and chain gangs to rebuild our infrastructure. We are spending BILLIONS to house and feed so many able working bodies. Let’s put them to work, make them feel like real men doing an honest day’s work. It is the best rehabilitation there is.

  4. steve says:

    It’s a great plan,demos didn’t think of it so it won’t work. What the hell is wrong with you people the oil companies are connected to all jobs.

  5. Greg says:

    Robin Hood taxation is the only way to do this. Until that gets passed, a short term $500B – $1T stimulus has to pass (personally I think it should be $2 – $4T now). Give that money to government agencies.

  6. Jackalope says:

    “Although the bill could easily pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, it faces an uncertain future in the Senate, ”

    That would be the Democrat-controlled Senate where at last count, some 17 jobs bills are waiting, and waiting, and waiting for Dems to introduce them for a vote. Yet they whine that it is Repubs who are holding things up. Even parts of Obama’s jobs bill that passed the House won’t see a Senate vote before 2012. Thanks Dems!

  7. olddispatcher says:

    I like the way the story speaks of drilling in ‘eastern gulf waters’. I think the word you are looking for here is Florida.

    The last time drilling here was proposed Jeb Bush, the Republican Governor of Florida, said it was never going to take place since he did not want the beaches there covered up with tar-balls. And he was able, with his brothers help, to get ‘eastern gulf waters’ off the list of tracts available for exploration.

    Drilling there is fine with me, but ya’ll might want to check with the Florida leadership before this plan gets too developed.

  8. Jo says:

    And I thought we the working people were already being taxed to cover such things…..

  9. olddispatcher says:

    Note to Congress: Oil prices go up and down. You may have heard of this. When prices are up so is production and due to a science known as ‘Mathematics’ Severance Taxes go up, too. Then you, as the government, receive money to do things with like building roads.

    When prices go down production goes down and severance taxes go down and then you have less money. I know this to be a fact as I have seen it take place several times.

    So… Why would you tie ANY project to funds available from an unsteady revenue stream? Roads aren’t cheap if they are done right and it is best to have the money put aside for a project and not depend on money that you might or might not get.

    I am not opposed to drilling for oil and/or gas, but just throwing up your hands and saying, “Well, if there is no drilling there will be no more roads,” is just stupid. Try a little leadership for a change. Start with trying to understand the economics and theory behind severance taxes before you jump into something like this.

  10. bill degeorge says:

    The most important issue facing Americans today is the economy, not the environment. We spend too much money buying oil from people who don’t care about us and are capable of distroying this country in a moment (by blowing up the oil fields for instance). Our first order of business should be to make sure we have a source of secure oil because without it, our ability to exist is gone. Building the pipeline will assure a source of secure oil and, perhaps even more important, create tens of thousands of jobs, building and maintaining the pipeline. Build the pipeline and, at the same time, create new jobs by protecting it and assuring it doesn’t affect the environment

  11. John says:

    That’s interesting that the GOP wants to force the feds to open up the Eastern Gulf when the Florida delegation — led by Republicans — has said they will block every attempt to do that. The same with opening up the Pacific regions — the congressional delegations of all the Pacific states (except Alaska) have all said they will block every attempt to drill there. Seems to be a bit of a disconnect somewhere.

  12. tonybot says:

    Didn’t they say drilling would pay for the wars too?

  13. Pat says:

    Don’t the Republicans know that roads and bridges are built by the government?! That’s socialism!!!

  14. Jack says:

    So just give away what remains of America to the giant oil companies, so America can do what it always used to do just by fairly taxing their record-breaking profits? I have a better idea…stop giving the oil companies and all other Wall Street entities their welfare checks and tax breaks. Pay for infrastructure the old fashioned American way. Fairly and equally.

  15. Ivar says:

    “House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “So instead of spending more tax dollars on another short-term stimulus that in my opinion won’t work, ”
    well, he’s wrong. And it could be paid for by eliminating the tax cuts on people making $1M or more. Pass the president’s bill.

  16. Jeff says:

    Hdad, why don’t you have an issue with drilling on private lands? So what if the land is public. 99.99999% of Americans will never see this “public” land.

  17. SaltWaterCroc says:

    Yeah, right. Then they’ll declare that money belongs to the corporations and lower their taxes further. There is a reason their approval is at the same level as Charles Manson’s. Even lawyers, as a group, have a higher approval rating than Republican congress critters. They are great at creating deficits by lowering taxes; then, when it comes time to pay the debts, they cut government services (except for Pentagon contractors). When the deficit starts to drop, they’ll cut taxes (for the top 1%) again, and the cycle repeats. Over 42% of the national debt was run up under GWB; Reagan and Bush I aren’t far behind. Just say no to Republicans.

  18. HDad says:

    Republicans just won’t quit trying to rape the public lands as a sop to their big energy company supporters. How many times do we have to say, shout, scream NO!!!! to drilling and development in the still pristine National Arctic Wildlife Refuge before they get the message?

  19. WriterDude says:

    A “back door gimmick” by the GOP to get into ANWR. Oil from this area is estimated to be some of the most expensive oil in the world to get out of the ground.