House Votes to Lift Drilling Ban

The House voted to overturn the Obama administration’s moratorium on deepwater oil drilling Friday, as part of a larger bill that would reorganize the way the government oversees drilling offshore. The moratorium, which the oil industry and its supporters have criticized for its negative impact on their business, will remain in place for the time being. The Senate still must approve the bill and the president would have to sign it into law.  

The administration banned deepwater drilling temporarily in the name of developing new safety regulations to prevent disasters like the oil gusher that fouled the Gulf of Mexico this summer. It has maintained the ban despite an adverse federal court ruling and an outcry from businesses that depend on active offshore wells for their livelihoods. Now the House has attached an amendment nixing the moratorium to a much larger bill that aligns with other White House priorities. H.R. 3534 would, among other things, reorganize the inept regulatory structure for overseeing deepwater drilling and institute new safety rules, such as a requirement for independent certification of key safety equipment on drilling rigs. Democrats are largely in favor of keeping the ban in place, but the urgency of passing regulatory reforms persuaded enough of them to vote for the bill.

Obama, however, may never have to decide whether to support the bill. A senior Senate aide says the Senate will aim to take it up next week before the month-long August recess, but the close House vote (209-193) suggests that the measure could be held up if Democrats can't find the 60 votes needed to move it through the upper chamber.

With Daniel Stone.