Herrera Beutler votes for Gulf oil bill

Passed in House, it would speed permitting process

By Kathie Durbin, Columbian staff writer

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U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler joined a bipartisan majority Wednesday in voting to speed up the federal permitting process for oil companies that hold leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Camas Republican announced last week that she had joined other GOP members in forming a House Energy Action Team that will promote policies to address rising fuel prices, promote energy independence and boost employment.

In a statement, she said her vote for House Resolution 1229, dubbed the “Putting the Gulf Back to Work Act,” would do just that.

“Folks in Southwest Washington are hurting from the high prices of gas and energy, and this bill will provide them with relief,” she said. “This is an American energy bill. It increases our American supply of energy and promotes job creation in America by lowering energy prices. We have to confront the rising price of energy head-on, before it costs us any more jobs.”

The measure, which passed on a vote of 263 to 163, amends the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to require the U.S. Interior Secretary to issue or deny drilling permits in the Gulf within 30 days after receiving applications.

Under the legislation, oil companies would be required to win approval of permits before proceeding with drilling offshore wells. The Interior Department would be required to conduct safety reviews of drilling plans during the review process.

The bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., does not require that the permit applications be approved by the Interior Department, only that officials act quickly on applications.

Herrera Beutler cited a Louisiana State University study that found a continued informal moratorium on energy exploration by the Obama administration could cost more than 36,000 jobs nationwide. The halt in energy production following the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill is costing the nation $4.7 million a day in lost revenue, according to an estimate by the National Center for Policy Analysis, a free-market think tank.

It’s not clear whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will bring the bill up for a vote in the Senate, or whether it has the votes to pass there.

Kathie Durbin: 360-735-4512 or kathie.durbin@columbian.com.