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Posted at 06:01 PM ET, 05/11/2011

House passes bill to accelerate Gulf of Mexico drilling permit process

The House on Wednesday passed a bill that would give the Interior Department a 30-day deadline for deciding on oil and gas drilling applications in the Gulf of Mexico.

The bill, H.R. 1229, passed the House on a 263-to-163 vote, with 28 Democrats joining all Republicans present to vote in favor of the measure. Its prospects in the Senate are uncertain.

The bill calls on the Interior Department to act within 30 days on any drilling permits in the Gulf and provides for two extensions of 15 days. If the department does not act within that 60-day window, the application automatically would be deemed approved.

House Republicans, who have dubbed the bill the “Putting the Gulf of Mexico Back to Work Act,” argued that the measure will help alleviate soaring gas prices by maximizing domestic energy production. Democrats countered that the measure would not have an immediate effect on energy prices and accused Republicans of ignoring the lessons of last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf.

The White House last week stated that it opposes the measure but did not explicitly issue a veto threat.

In its statement, the White House argued that the bill “would constrain the ability of DOI to ensure that permits meet safety standards by requiring permitting decisions to be made within 30 days of receiving an application — thereby curtailing the review period.”

The measure follows another drilling-related bill, H.R. 1230, which passed the House last week. It also comes as both chambers have been renewing their focus on legislation related to energy prices in an effort to ride the wave of public anger over rising prices. Senate Democrats this week are pushing legislation that would eliminate tax subsidies for big oil companies, and a hearing on the matter is slated for Thursday.

CNN reported that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Wednesday indicated that he was “leaning towards” supporting the Senate Democratic measure, citing the “record profits” and “tax advantage” big oil companies enjoy, and Senate Democrats are upping the pressure on other Republicans as well.

By  |  06:01 PM ET, 05/11/2011

 
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