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U.S. House Backs Bill to Expand Coastal Oil, Gas Drilling

Oil and gas exploration off U.S. coasts would be expanded under legislation the U.S. House of Representatives passed over the threat of a presidential veto.

The vote on the bill, H.R. 2231, was 235-186.

The measure would require the Obama administration to conduct additional sales of oil and gas leases off the coasts of Virginia, South Carolina, southern California and Alaska over the next five years, reports Bloomberg BNA.

In addition, it would order the administration to create a plan that would open up almost all of the nation’s coastline for exploration; a draft would be due July 15, 2014, and a final plan approved by July 15, 2015.

“This bill doesn’t harm the environment,” said Washington state Republican Doc Hastings, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. “We want to drill safely and responsibly.”

The Senate isn’t expected to take up the legislation.

The White House Office of Management and Budget issued a June 25 statement of administration policy warning of a potential veto. The measure “would undermine the targeted, science-based and regionally tailored development strategy that the American people and the states have helped development,” according to that statement.

The requirement that the Interior Department open new areas for exploration “would be directed without secretarial discretion to determine whether those areas are appropriate for leasing,” the agency said.

Expanded offshore leasing would benefit the large oil companies, which have the resources to finance the high startup costs, according to Bloomberg Government analyst Jason Arvelo. ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, BHP Billiton Ltd. and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. were among the most active in the federal offshore leasing circuit in 2012 and 2013.

The large companies would be the most likely to take advantage of the expanded territory available for offshore drilling activities, according to Arvelo.

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