Muckraker: Grist on Politics

Apparently not satisfied with the expiration of the moratorium on drilling along the Outer Continental Shelf, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is circulating a bill [PDF] that open up still more offshore areas to drilling.

The “Drill Now Act of 2008” would accelerate the expansion of offshore drilling by superseding a provision that currently prevents new lease sales until July 2012. The bill would allow the secretary of interior to conduct OCS lease sales even in areas not previously included in the current five-year OCS leasing program, and would allow the Mineral Management Service (yes, that MMS) to start preleasing activities right away — no need to wait for a new five-year leasing plan. The legislation would also give states that consent to drilling within 200 miles of their coasts 50 percent of the revenues from lease sales, making drilling a whole lot more appealing for coastal states.

The bill would replace language in the 2006 Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act that currently protects Florida’s Gulf Coast out to the Military Mission Line, which ranges from 100 to 234 miles from the coast, until 2022. DeMint’s plan would essentially allow the secretary of defense to determine where the outer boundry would be.

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The bill would also require that any lawsuits from states, environmental groups, or other entities regarding the new leases or drilling operations be filed no later than 90 days “after the date on which the complainant knew or reasonably should have known of the grounds for the complaint.” And it pretty much takes off the table every federal law that could be used to challenge the drilling: the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act would be “rendered moot and cannot be raised in court.”

Additionally, the bill would repeal all restrictions on oil-shale development.

Expect DeMint to try to tack this onto whatever measure possible before the Senate closes up shop for the year.

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