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House passes bill to end offshore drilling moratorium

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives voted 232-187 [roll call] Thursday to approve the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act [HR 4761 text], which "provide[s] for exploration, development, and production activities for mineral resources on the Outer Continental Shelf [DOI definition]." The bill, a version of which was approved [JURIST report] in a House committee in October, would end the offshore drilling moratorium on 85% of the coastal waters surrounding the US, which has been renewed by Congress every year since 1981. Florida senators are expected to filibuster the bill when it comes before the Senate, as fears of an oil spill worry lawmakers from states that rely heavily on tourist income. Currently before the Senate is a bill [S 2253 PDF text] that would open to oil exploration an area in the Gulf of Mexico not currently under the moratorium.

The House bill includes provisions allowing individual states to choose whether to lift the moratorium, and would change revenue sharing so that states would receive as much as 75% of royalties paid by oil companies for drilling rights. Currently, the federal government receives the as much as 95% of the royalties. The US Department of the Interior [official website] has estimated that changing the royalty structure could cost the federal government as much as $69 billion in revenue over the next 15 years. AP has more.

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