WASHINGTON, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Some U.S. House Democrats say they want to close a 1995 loophole allowing oil companies to drill without paying royalties at some places in the Gulf of Mexico.
Democratic representatives said changing the drilling rules could save the federal government $1.5 billion this year and $53 billion over the next 25 years, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported Thursday.
They have proposed an amendment to a pending House Republican bill that would cut $60 billion in federal spending in the remaining seven months of the 2011 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
"Right now, the Republican leadership is looking to cut millions of meals for our nation's senior citizens, while defending these free lunches for BP, Exxon and other multibillion-dollar corporations," said Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, the senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee.
"We all know we need to make smart cuts to the deficit, but this is the kind of special-interest loophole that should be closed before we open attacks on programs for the poorest Americans," he said.
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., said the amendment would make domestic drilling less competitive and damage the economy.
"Congressman Markey's amendment to raise taxes on domestic drilling would ship thousands more high-paying American jobs overseas while raising the gas prices at the pump, undermining our energy security, and leaving our country more dependent on Middle Eastern oil," Scalise said.