The new Capitol Hill budget plan clears the way for a U.S.-Mexico offshore drilling agreement to proceed, signaling the apparent end of a House-Senate impasse that has stalled implementation of the 2012 accord.
The agreement announced Tuesday evening between Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. has language tucked into it that approves the U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement.
The bilateral drilling accord is designed to enable cooperation and legal certainty in the development of oil-and-gas along a maritime boundary in the Gulf of Mexico.
The budget plan announced Tuesday would break a Capitol Hill logjam on the drilling accord--if the overall deal passes.
The underlying U.S.-Mexico drilling pact has bipartisan and White House support. But the House-approved version of the implementing bill, which passed in June, included waivers from a provision of the Dodd-Frank law that requires oil-and-gas companies to disclose payments to foreign governments. The Senate-approved version of the U.S.-Mexico bill, which the White House backed, did not include the language. House and Senate differences over the bill have delayed final action for months.
Senate and Obama administration aides said the Ryan-Murray deal jettisons the Dodd-Frank waiver, but includes other language from the House-passed version of the implementing bill, H.R. 1613.
Obama administration officials say the U.S.-Mexico pact will foster development with needed safeguards in place.
"This agreement will make nearly 1.5 million acres of the Outer Continental Shelf, currently affected by a moratorium under the Western Gap Treaty, immediately available for leasing and also make the entire transboundary region, which is currently subject to legal uncertainty in the absence of an agreement, more attractive to U.S.-qualified operators," said Tommy Beaudreau, a senior Interior Department official, in testimony for an Oct. 1 Senate hearing.
Interior estimates that the transboundary region contains 172 million barrels of oil and 304 billion cubic feet of natural gas.