U.S. regulators, members of the oil industry and environmentalists testified before a House Natural Resources subcommittee on a bill that would facilitate oil and natural gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico.
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., a co-author of the bill, said the measure would help ensure North American energy security.
"This agreement, if implemented correctly, is a rare opportunity to expand U.S. energy production, create new American jobs and grow our economy by opening new areas to oil and natural resources development," he said.
The bill would amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act by lifting a moratorium on drilling in the region. It was presented last week, before the U.S. Interior Department announced plans to lease new areas to oil and natural gas explorers off the southern coast of Texas.
Manuel testified that, while the Sierra Club shares many of their interests, the U.S. government's current five-year lease plan gives explorers access to about 75 percent of the estimated reserves in the Gulf of Mexico.
"That is clearly enough to keep the industry busy given that the oil and gas industry is sitting on a large number of inactive leases in federal waters, proving (the measure) to be unnecessary," he said.