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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, June 14, 2018 1:00 am

House eyes penalties for anti-drilling states

Dino Grandoni | Washington Post

WASHINGTON – House Republicans put forward a proposal this week to impose hefty fees on states that do not approve of drilling for oil and natural gas off their coasts, a move that would pressure local leaders who oppose the Trump administration's plan to expand offshore leasing.

The administration's plan has been met with stiff resistance from many Democrats and even Republicans in coastal communities. Elected leaders in several seaside states even vowed to block the federal government from allowing offshore leasing off their shores.

The draft proposal, which will be discussed at a hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee today, says that states will be allowed to disapprove of drilling offshore in up to half the lease blocks off their coasts without incurring a penalty.

But any state with a proposed lease sale that wants to put more than 50 percent of the blocks off-limits would be required to pay a fee equal to at least one-tenth the estimated government revenue that would have been generated from lease sales, royalties and other revenue streams, if oil and gas drilling had taken place.

The bill would also create revenue-sharing scheme for states that do decide to drill. Under current law, only Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas receive a share of offshore oil and gas receipts.

Democrats objected to the idea of dinging states for protecting their coastlines, saying the plan, if enacted, could cost individual states hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in fees.

“This bill is a ransom note in a cheap disguise,” Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., the committee's top Democrat, said in a statement. “Penalizing states for protecting their own beaches is what you'd see in a petro-state, not in a modern democracy.

“The Republicans on this committee seem to think we're here to do industry's bidding regardless of the consequences, and until control of Congress changes, this is the best the American people can expect.”