The Department of Interior finalized new safety rules for drilling in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska last week, but it took just six days for House Republicans to find a way to block them.
Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, offered an amendment to a $32.1 billion spending bill for Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency that would prohibit the department from spending any money on the new regulations. The amendment passed on a voice vote and will be included in the final bill, which could be voted on Wednesday night.
The regulations from Interior finalized on July 7 require coming up with an "integrated operations plan" for a drilling site at least 90 days before sending in a exploration plan to the Department of Interior, having access to a separate drilling rig to drill a relief well in case of an oil spill and having the ability to cap wells quickly in the event of a spill.
Young said it's just a play by the administration to keep oil in the ground.
"This regulation is nothing more than a tactic to lock safe Arctic energy development up in red tape because exploration would be come a full-time and necessary operational burden," he said.
Roughly 24 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 104 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are estimated to be in the ground below the Arctic Ocean in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.
Interior officials touted the regulation as being one of the strictest rules ever for offshore drilling due to the unique challenges of drilling in the Arctic. It's estimated the regulations would cost industry about $2 billion over the next 10 years.
Young said the decision by the Obama administration to go ahead with the rules would hurt the Alaskan, and national, economy.
"Locking Arctic resources only hurts our nation by preventing responsible energy development," he said.
Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., was the lone Democrat to speak against the amendment, calling it misguided.
She said Young's amendment would actually keep industry away from the Arctic Ocean because it would make it unclear what regulations companies would have to abide by.
"Delaying or inhibiting implementation of this rule would probably deter rather than encourage future Arctic oil exploration," she said.
A Young-sponsored amendment to keep Interior from removing three offshore drilling leases from the planned 2017 and 2022 Arctic Ocean sales also passed Wednesday night, 237-191. The amendment would ensure the Department of Interior could not remove the Arctic Ocean from those lease sales.
The House continued to consider the funding bill Wednesday night and it's expected that the full bill will face a final passage vote on Thursday.