House Republicans pump legislation for the oil industry

NEITHER Congress nor the oil industry bothered to offer a credible case why offshore energy exploration should be expanded. Of course, that did not stop House Republicans from brazenly pushing ahead.

A GOP measure passed by a lopsided margin last week to open the Virginia coast to drilling and expand production in the Gulf of Mexico, while nothing has been done to prevent a repeat of the April 2010 offshore disaster in the Gulf.

This week, the potential for another environmental catastrophe would be compounded by Republican efforts to pass expedited reviews of drilling plans — miss a deadline and its drill, baby, drill — and creation of oil-production thresholds to force open any qualifying area for drilling.

Reckless legislating only encourages the industry to seek additional exceptions. Shell Oil wants to drill in the Arctic's Beaufort Sea and has its eyes on drilling in the Chukchi Sea.

Oil companies are rolling in profits and tax breaks, yet pushing the same old technology and failed safeguards as they pursue drilling in ever harsher, riskier settings.

America has no confidence in the oil industry's ability to design and execute plans to manage spills. Two words have undone all the glib chatter about the improbability of massive failures: Deepwater Horizon.

"One of the lessons learned from the disastrous BP oil spill is that without a fundamental transformation of the oil industry, another spill is possible, even likely." said Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell as she reintroduced legislation in January to permanently ban drilling off the West Coast.

A moratorium on such drilling expired in 2008 and the Bush administration and subsequently the Obama administration did not renew it. We supported the ban introduced a year ago, and support it again.

Hasty, thoughtless action by Congress is no panacea for high prices at the gas pump. Federal regulators and the industry offer no technical or regulatory assurances about preventing spills.

These dangerous, contemptuous pieces of legislation must die in the Senate.