House bill would open coasts, other areas to drilling

Recent hurricane-related disruptions to Gulf Coast oil infrastructure may get the oil industry something it’s been after for years: a chance to drill off the U.S. coasts. Legislation sponsored by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) and approved last week by the House Resources Committee he chairs would permit individual states to opt out of the current moratorium on offshore drilling in exchange for financial incentives. Coast conservation advocates fear Pombo has hit on an effective strategy to divide the states and dissolve the national moratorium on offshore drilling — which could put states that uphold it at risk from spills off the coasts of their neighbors that don’t. Pombo’s bill would also enact measures designed to open up more of the nation’s lands to drilling, like new restrictions on public-comment periods and exemptions from rules protecting the environment and important historic areas. Clearly the hurricanes have taught those in Washington all the right lessons.