Sen. David Vitter opposes offshore drilling measure, calling it too burdensome

Date: May 19, 2011

Sen. David Vitter opposes offshore drilling measure, calling it too burdensome

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., was one of five Republican to vote Wednesday against legislation introduced by Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell to expedite and expand offshore oil drilling.

Vitter said he opposed the measure, which in most respects tracked bills passed by the Republican House, because he said it didn't go as far as the House bills in opening new tracts along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in the eastern Gulf for drilling. It also included a provision that would have gone beyond current Interior Department regulations and required exploration plans to have containment response provisions that had been reviewed by a third party.

"I think this is a completely unnecessary extra burden, extra hurdle, extra layer of requirement. We need to make the permitting process smoother, more streamlined, more accelerated, not move in the opposite direction," Vitter said in his floor speech on the McConnell bill.

The measure failed, on a vote of 42-57, to get anywhere near the 60 votes it would have needed to proceed, just as a Democratic plan, introduced by Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., to take away $21 billion in tax deductions and incentives from the Big Five oil companies over the next 10 years, also failed, on a 52-48 vote Tuesday.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., one of only three Democrats to vote against the Menendez measure, voted along with the rest of her party against the McConnell bill, though her reasons were very different than those of most of her fellow Democrats.

Landrieu's primary objection to McConnell's approach is that it would do nothing to provide Louisiana and other coastal states with a share of the revenues produced from oil and gas production in federal waters off their coast before 2017, when, because of earlier legislation crafted by Landrieu and former Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., revenue sharing will begin for the four coastal states.

Landrieu and Vitter had issued a rare joint statement Tuesday, describing themselves as the "two senators most familiar with the Gulf energy shutdown," and characterizing the Menendez bill as one that "simply demagogues the issue," and the McConnell bill as one that would "slow down the permitting process instead of streamlining and accelerating it," and that, in an allusion to revenue sharing, "also fails to recognize the important role that states like Louisiana and Texas play in offshore oil production."

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