Will Modified Drilling Provisions Please Senators?


Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) will attempt to walk a difficult line tomorrow when they unveil a draft of their much anticipated climate and energy bill. While a copy of the draft leaked Tuesday indicates that the senators have attempted to scale back some of the offshore drilling components to please opponents, the staunchest anti-drilling senators may remain nonplussed.

“Word is climate bill might let rigs in Florida’s no-drill zone,” Tweeted an angry Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) Thursday afternoon. “If Sens. Kerry, Lieberman are following me on Twitter: that’s a non starter.”

Nelson has threatened to filibuster a climate bill that includes any expansion of offshore drilling. But senators like Mary Landrieu (D-La.) have maintained that drilling is necessary to get their vote. From the early indications, Kerry and Lieberman tried to strike a balance—but whether they succeeded isn’t clear.

The draft grants states the ability to prohibit drilling within 75 miles of its coast. And it also directs the Department of Interior to conduct environmental and economic studies on whether an oil spill off the coast of one state would impact nearby states. If it is determined that a spill would hurt other states, “directly impacted states may prevent leasing from proceeding.” So, for example, if a spill off the coast of Virginia could impact the New Jersey shore, New Jersey would be given the right to veto Virginia’s drilling. (The example is particularly pertinent, as the two New Jersey senators are adamant opponents of offshore drilling, while Virginia was included in the expansion of drilling proposed in March).

But the draft text also says that 37.5 percent of revenues from the sale of offshore leases would be directed to the states. This is another contentious issue. Senators like Landrieu have said that revenue sharing is a must-have for their vote. (Landrieu even went so far as to suggest at Tuesday’s hearing on the spill that revenue sharing would help a state like hers cope with a spill like the one underway in the Gulf.) Another 12.5 percent of the revenue from lease sales would go to state and federal land and water conservation programs under the draft.

Needless to say, the drilling debate will continue tomorrow after the senators officially roll out their bill at a 1:30 p.m. press conference. As has been expected for some time now, their Republican co-author, Lindsey Graham, won’t be joining them.

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