Perlmutter backs Gardner offshore drilling bill for sake of ‘energy independence’

Colorado Congressman Ed Perlmutter today defended his decision to go against the Colorado Democratic Party and vote with the state’s GOP majority in supporting Republican Cory Gardner’s controversial Jobs and Energy Permitting Act (H.R. 2021).

Rep. Ed Perlmutter
The bill, passed last night by the House by a 253-166 margin, would streamline the federal permitting process for offshore oil and gas drilling in Alaska. Perlmutter was the lone Colorado Democrat backing the bill, bucking Reps. Diana DeGette and Jared Polis. Republicans Mike Coffman, Doug Lamborn, Scott Tipton and Gardner all voted in favor.

“Energy independence is of vital importance,” Perlmutter told the Colorado Independent. “Just today, the president released 60 million barrels of our Strategic Petroleum Reserve onto the world market to offset the disruption in the oil supply caused by unrest in the Middle East. While not a perfect bill, HR 2021 is a practical and immediate step towards greater domestic energy production.

“We have to streamline the federal bureaucratic processes in all sectors of government, and this bill helps streamline the permitting process and gives the same voice to communities and organizations petitioning against a permit. The process will ensure each permit application is judged on its individual merits.”

But opponents of the bill say the streamlining means cutting far too many regulatory corners, exposing Alaskans to air pollution and accelerating the warming of America’s Arctic Ocean.

The bill “would block the EPA from regulating dangerous air pollution from offshore oil drilling, including America’s Arctic Ocean. [The ocean], located off the north coast of Alaska, is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world and is one of the most vulnerable regions in the country,” according to a fact sheet from the Washington-based Alaska Wilderness League (AWL).

AWL says the bill would exempt companies from using pollution control technology on offshore drilling vessels such as ice breakers, which account for up to 98 percent of the air pollution generated by offshore drilling.

“At its core, this bill gives Shell Oil – the world’s second largest corporation, with profits upwards of $8.7 billion in the first three months of 2011 alone – exemptions to important air pollution controls and a free pass to pursue risky and aggressive oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean on its own terms by severely limiting public and judicial review during the oil and gas permitting process,” according to the AWL.

Gardner argues it’s all about creating jobs and lowering prices at the pump.

“The House passed my bill to put the country on a path toward energy security and create jobs,” the freshman Republican wrote last night on his Facebook page. “The Jobs and Energy Permitting Act passed with bipartisan support, 253-166. If enacted, the bill will help create 50,000 jobs across the country and bring new energy supplies online that will help relieve the pain at the pump.”

But any relief at the pump from offshore drilling in Alaska is years away because of the lag in production time, although Gardner argues merely the promise of increased production will help bring prices down.

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