The Congressional restrictions on energy leasing in 85 percent of America’s territorial waters, which have been renewed annually since 1982, were allowed to lapse this year. They expired on September 30th, and since overlapping White House restrictions were rescinded by President Bush a few months ago, nearly all of our federally controlled waters are now open for energy leasing.

Senator Harry Reid has already implied he wants to reinstate the ban, saying “We look forward to working with the next president to hammer out a final resolution of this issue.” Not so fast, Senator Reid. Some of your colleagues don’t necessarily feel the same way you do.

Just yesterday, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland told reporters,

I don’t think there is any intent at this point in time … to return to the same position we were in” before the ban was lifted.”

While those words are encouraging, it certainly won’t be an easy path to extract 19 billion barrels of oil and 84 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. One reason is that anti-energy activists will file administrative appeals and lawsuits to block lease sales. Another problem is that the 111th Congress may not reinstate offshore drilling bans, but they may impose new restrictions that take these resources away. American Petroleum Institute’s Cathy Landry explains,

When they’re talking about ‘parameters,’ we should point out that putting arbitrary limits on development, whether that’s [prohibiting drilling within] 100 miles from shore, or whatever they’re thinking, could take some of the most promising domestic resources off the table.”

This chart, courtesy of the Institute for Energy Research, reaffirms Landry’s statement.

API’s recently released primer, Policies for America’s Future: Restoring Our Economic
Strength and Shaping Our Energy Future, is a thorough, informative guide on accessing oil and natural gas in the United States and offers some good policy recommendations. Check it out here.