Democrats' offshore drilling plan would give states nothing



Even as House Democratic leaders handed Republicans a symbolic victory this week in their long fight for new offshore oil development, critics charged that the fine print in the plan probably will continue to keep drillers out of the Atlantic.

While lifting a 25-year federal ban on most offshore oil and natural gas drilling, the legislation would block Virginia and other coastal states from sharing in a $2.6 trillion bonanza of tax revenue expected to flow from offshore fields. A Senate bill still in the works would give states part of the money.

Unless states stand to profit from offshore development, they almost surely would exercise their right under the bill to block any drilling within 100 miles of their shores, critics of the House initiative charged.

"With no financial incentive, no state will choose to 'opt in,' " House Republican leader John A. Boehner of Ohio told reporters, "and this bill will result in little or no new American energy production."

Rep. Thelma Drake, a Norfolk Republican who has taken a prominent role among pro-drilling forces, was even more critical.

The new bill "appears to be little more than a political ploy," Drake charged in a prepared statement. Democrats intend to "tell the American people that they voted to go after more American energy while winking to the environmentalists to say that this increased production will never happen," she said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters that sharing royalties with the states would force Congress to overhaul the entire budget, an impossible task just three weeks before the beginning of a new fiscal year.

Pay-as-you-go rules adopted by lawmakers require them to offset any surrender of federal revenue with cuts in spending, she said.

Republicans scoffed at the explanation, noting that Democrats have not invoked "pay-go" in signing off a multi billion-dollar bailout of mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

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