US chamber votes to end drilling ban

The United States House of Representatives has voted to allow offshore oil drilling, potentially opening large areas of the US coastline to exploration.

The bill is now due to go before the Senate, where it would need to be reconciled with energy legislation in that chamber. However, only two weeks remain before Congress adjourns ahead of the November elections. 

The House bill proposes giving states the option to permit drilling between 50 and 100 miles (80 and 160 kilometres) off US shores and allows drilling in areas more than 100 miles off the coast.

Offshore oil drilling has become a contentious issue in the upcoming elections. Democrats initially opposed lifting the moratorium, saying that it would have little effect on rising petrol prices, but the party has more recently expressed support for repealing the ban as part of a larger energy package.

The bill was criticised by Republicans and others for not going far enough: its requirement that drilling occur at least 50 miles away from the US coast rules out a great area of the outer continental shelf. But it was also blasted by environmentalists for giving a green light to the country’s continued reliance on fossil fuels.

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