2003 Scorecard Vote
To protect America's sensitive coastal areas from oil and gas drilling and development, Congress, since 1982, has included language in Interior appropriations bills to prevent the Interior Department from conducting leasing, pre-leasing and related activities on the Outer Continental Shelf. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush placed a ten-year moratorium on new oil leases on the Outer Continental Shelf. President Clinton subsequently extended this moratorium to 2012, and President George W. Bush included the traditional legislative moratorium language in his 2004 budget request.
However, the Senate energy bill (S.14) and House energy bill (H.R. 6) originally included language that would undermine this protection. The language required the Interior Department to inventory the potential oil and gas resources of the entire Outer Continental Shelf, including areas under moratorium, using seismic surveys, sediment sampling, and other exploration technologies that damage sea life and ocean habitat. Seismic surveys, in particular, have been shown to have severe impacts on populations of fish as well as gray, sperm, beaked and bowhead whales.
This provision was dropped from the final House and Senate versions of the energy bill, but when the bill went to conference committee, conferees attempted to reinsert language requiring surveys of the Outer Continental Shelf. In addition to requiring the inventory of offshore oil and gas resources, the conference language would have eliminated the right of states to approve oil and gas development off their shores. Representative Lois Capps (D-CA) offered a motion to instruct energy bill conferees to maintain current moratoriums. On October 13, 2003, the House agreed to the Capps motion by a 229-182 vote (House roll call vote 540). YES is the pro-environment vote. Thanks to this vote, the energy bill that emerged from House-Senate conference did not include the coastal oil and gas inventory language. The House later approved the conference report, but the Senate has yet to pass it.