Washington Congress Member Pushes Drilling

By Tom Bacon

Washington GOP Congressman Doc Hastings is in the van of a new congressional push to fulfill a long-time Republican energy mantra - "drill, baby, drill."
Hastings, the veteran southeast Washington representative, is chair of the House Natural Resources committee.

He's written a new bill to extend offshore drilling to Pacific and Atlantic coastal regions which are excluded from exploration under President Obama's five-year oil and gas leasing plan.

Hastings calls his measure -virtually identical to one which passed the House in the last congress - a "pro-energy, pro-jobs plan ...which will safely harness our vast offshore energy resources."

The GOP-controlled House may easily pass the measure, but there'll be pushback in the Senate.

Still, the Senate has some members who might be more amenable to the idea this time around. Democratic Senator Mark Warner has introduced his own bill to authorize drilling off the Virginia coast, and Mark Begich of Alaska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana are both advocates. A hearing on Hasting's new bill is scheduled next Thursday.

At the same time, however, conservationists are gearing up for a new lobbying push against new drilling on federal lands. Led by the Sierra Club, environmentalists are urging the president to forestall unchecked drilling in the west by designating more land as national monuments.

If that happens, it'll be over Hasting's strenuous objections. Two months ago, he refused to support a national monument designation in Washington's San Juan Islands even though the idea had solid support from local politicians and business interests.
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