GOP Congressman proposes sale of CA offshore oil leases

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Minerals Management Service

A map from the Minerals Management Service shows its 2006 assessment of the 'technically recoverable oil and gas resources' off US's western coast.

President Barack Obama will outline his plan for what he calls “America’s energy security” on Wednesday. But on Tuesday, the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee unveiled his own proposal: drilling more off the Southern California coast.

The bill by Republican Congressman Doc Hastings of Washington would reverse the president’s moratorium on oil and gas lease sales from Carmel to San Diego. Hastings says increasing energy production would create jobs, lower energy costs and improve national security by lessening our dependence on foreign oil.

LA Congressman Henry Waxman, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, opposes drilling off the California coast.

"Of course people are concerned about the high price of gas," says Waxman. "It’s like we’re on an addictive yo-yo. When prices go up, then people start saying, 'let’s do something about it.' Then when the Saudis and the others allow the prices to drop by increasing the supply then we don’t worry about it any longer. It’s about time that we come to terms with the fact that we need an energy policy in this country."

"The truth of the matter," he says, "is that there are plenty of leases that are still available for the oil companies if they want to drill in the Gulf of Mexico. They are permitted to drill there, but they aren’t even coming forward and asking for those leases. So for Congress to give them more areas makes no sense."

Waxman says there may be enough votes to pass the measure in the House, but he’s “pretty confident” the president would veto a measure that allows drilling off California's coast.

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