updated 12/1/2006 1:44:20 PM ET 2006-12-01T18:44:20

House Republicans agreed Friday to move a compromise offshore drilling bill passed by the Senate this summer that would open new territory in the Gulf Coast area to oil rigs and create a cash cow for nearby states.

With time running out on the party’s majority rule, GOP leaders decided to send the measure to the floor for a vote next week, Kevin Madden, a spokesman for Majority Leader John Boehner said.

It wasn’t clear, however, whether Republican leaders would press for its passage or simply offer it up for a vote anticipating it would fail. They have previously blocked it, hoping for a more ambitious bill that would open coastal waters across the country to drilling unless a state objects.

The bill would allow new oil and natural gas development in 8.3 million acres of federally controlled waters in the eastern-central Gulf of Mexico, with supporters saying it would help ease tight markets, particularly for natural gas. The Senate passed the bill 71-25 in August.

Along with opening new territory, the bill would sharply increase royalty shares for Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas from less than 2 percent to 37.5 percent. In 2017, the new royalty formula would apply to all oil and gas produced in the Gulf, not just from the 8.3 million acres newly opened.

A leading opponent of the Senate bill, House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, R-Calif., lost his seat in the Nov. 7 election.

Another staunch opponent, Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa., said he still believes the measure is too modest but would support it as an incremental improvement.

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