Offshore drilling bill moves forward in House

Legislation that would end a 25-year ban on most offshore drilling was approved by the House Resources Committee yesterday. The bill would authorize oil and gas development farther than 50 miles offshore, unless a state acted to prohibit exploration within 100 miles of its shore; the current ban prohibits drilling within about 200 miles of most of the nation’s coast. Up to 75 percent of production royalties would be distributed to states instead of the federal treasury, a feature the Bush administration opposes. The bill would also force oil companies to renegotiate some contracts that allow them to skip out on billions in royalty payments for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Shell, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips have indicated they’re willing to discuss fixing the contracts’ loophole; ExxonMobil (surprise!) opposes renegotiation. The bill has a relatively good chance of passing in the House but is likely doomed in the Senate, as coastal-state senators have threatened to filibuster any legislation that lifts the offshore drilling ban.