A bill that would finally give Louisiana a fair share of deepwater lease revenues and generate billions of dollars for coastal restoration passed Thursday night in the House of Representatives. The Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act, sponsored by Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal (R), was approved despite stiff opposition from House Democrats. By an almost four-to-one margin, Democrats voted against the bill, ostensibly because it would ease a ban on offshore drilling that protects almost every other state’s coast except Louisiana’s.

The bill would reduce dependence on foreign oil, lower the price at the pump, create jobs, and at last reward Louisiana for its sacrifices as the nation’s offshore energy provider. Yet liberal Democrats oppose it for two reasons. First, they do not like the idea of having to look at oil rigs while they sun tan on the beach (or even having to think about the oil rigs, if they are 50 miles offshore). Second, they fear sea otters and other wildlife will get Exxon Valdezed all the time if Big Oil is allowed to infiltrate their precious coastal waters. (Like the 47,000 barrels spilled offshore recently near Lake Charles, but again, who cares, that was just Louisiana.)

To be fair, both House Democrats from Louisiana voted for the bill and Mary Landrieu (D) supports it in the Senate. And Governor Kathleen Blanco (D), with nothing to lose at this point, is trying to play hardball with threats to block new leases if the federal government refuses to share.

The Bush administration, on the other hand, dislikes the revenue sharing feature of the bill, even though land-based oil producing states have long had a similar deal, because of the price tag. But the measure could ultimately be cost neutral. Billions of dollars for Louisiana means a shored up coastline and restored wetlands, which in turn provides a natural barrier for hurricanes and storm surge, and reduces the chances of another costly disaster aid package (or more likely, a federal buyout of south Louisiana).

All out-of-state readers (if any), should urge their senators and the White House to support this bill when it is taken up in the Senate, probably next month. Louisiana’s future depends on it.

H R 4761 RECORDED VOTE 29-Jun-2006 7:21 PM
QUESTION: On Passage
BILL TITLE: Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act

  Ayes Noes PRES NV
Republican 192 31   7
Democratic 40 155   6
Independent   1    
TOTALS 232 187 13