By David Pendered
As President Obama prepares to unveil Monday strong regulations intended to counter climate change and promote solar power, Georgia’s two senators succeeded in passing through committee a bill authorizing oil drilling off Georgia’s coast and for the state to collect revenues from such oil production.
Sen. Johnny Isakson and Sen. David Perdue co-sponsored the measure May 11. The legislation was rolled into a broader energy bill approved July 30 by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The next step is consideration by the full Senate.
The broader bill provides for Georgia and other coastal states to, “receive a fair share of the revenue from oil and gas activity off their shores,” according to a statement posted on the Senate Republican News website.
According to the statement:
- “The legislation would ensure that America’s energy renaissance continues by opening additional areas of America’s offshore to responsible oil and gas exploration; allowing our nation’s crude oil to be exported; and ensuring coastal states share in the revenues from offshore production to offset the impacts of development.”
The original legislation was titled Southern Atlantic Energy Security Act, and was introduced by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). The bill had five cosponsors: the other senator from Virginia; a senator from North Carolina; one from South Carolina; and Georgia’s two senators.
Isakson has a considerable record of supporting offshore drilling. In this case, he cosponsored a proposal that would enable offshore drilling in the South Atlantic, provide revenues for states, and require the federal government to collaborate with state governors regarding the, “management of the surface occupancy of the areas between the coastline and 30 nautical miles to mitigate potential concerns regarding impacts to coastal viewsheds.”
According to a Senate description of the proposal, it:
- “Requires the Department to include the South Atlantic planning area in the outer Continental Shelf (OCS) leasing program for Fiscal Year 2017 [through] Fiscal Year 2022, and conduct in that area one lease sale during FY2021, and two lease sales during FY2022.
- “Directs the Department [of Interior] and the Department of Defense to implement lease sales jointly to: (1) preserve the ability of the Armed Forces to maintain an optimum state of readiness through their continued use of the OCS [outer Continental Shelf]; and (2) allow effective exploration, development, and production of U.S. oil, gas, and renewable energy resources.
Environment Georgia opposes the legislation. The group’s director, Jennette Gayer, issued the following statement:
- “We’ve seen it time and time again: when you drill, you spill. Yet too many senators, including Georgia’s Senators Isakson and Perdue, voted today to expand dirty drilling and put our beachgoers, our coasts, and precious marine life in harm’s way. What’s more, lifting the ban on oil exports increases pollution worldwide and consigns us to a more dangerous climate, while doing nothing to help our energy independence.
- “Construction for the nation’s first offshore wind farm has just begun in Rhode Island. That’s the energy source off our coast that senators should pursue, and that our beaches, our wildlife, and future generations deserve. Dirty energy sources, like offshore oil and gas, endanger our coast and tourism industries. They are part of the past. Senators should support the clean, renewable energy Georgia needs for the future.”
Obama’s pending environmental regulations are being presented as a legacy issue, comparable to the Affordable Care Act.
The regulations aren’t focused on oil production, consumption or export. The White House has already addressed some of those issues through fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles and heavy duty vehicles used for commercial purposes.
The climate-change legislation focuses on carbon produced by power plants. The most aggressive of the regulations would reduce existing coal-fired power plants to reduce emissions by 32 percent by 2030, compared to emissions in 2005. The current target for emissions reduction is 30 percent, according to a report on nytimes.com.