This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) that would have allowed district courts outside the Fifth Circuit (which included only Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas) to hear civil lawsuits regarding oil drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico.
Specifically, the underlying bill prohibited district courts outside the Fifth Circuit (in other words, those courts outside of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas) from hearing civil cases involving oil-drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico. Deutch’s amendment would have eliminated that prohibition.
Deutch urged support for his amendment: “Under this provision, litigation relating to leases on energy development can only be filed in a district court in the Fifth Circuit. And while the Fifth Circuit includes the Gulf States of Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, two states that comprise substantial gulf coastlines, Florida and Alabama, are in the 11th Circuit, and it makes no sense that the residents of these states will have to travel to the Fifth Circuit to have their cases heard. The effect of this section would be to prevent the district courts in Florida and Alabama from considering civil cases related to the issuance of leases for energy development, production and exploration off the coastlines of these States. Congress has no business telling courts within a state that they are prohibited from considering issues involving a lease for energy development, production and exploration that have the potential to cause irreparable environmental and economic damage to the gulf coast area of that state. In addition, requiring these cases to be moved from Florida and Alabama to a state within the Fifth Circuit will cause substantial hardship for the parties involved in the litigation, substantial hardship for the witnesses who would need to testify, and would result in substantial costs.”
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) opposed the amendment: “In order to ensure that there is a circuit court that is familiar with the legal issues surrounding civil actions involving gulf energy production, it is important that venue be restricted to the Fifth Circuit so that those district and appeals court judges would have the essential experience and legal precedent to fairly rule on these technical cases. For that reason, I oppose this amendment. The Fifth Circuit, as was pointed out earlier, does include Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, all Gulf Coast states. If various district courts and courts of appeal throughout the country were able to hear these cases, there may be a result of having no uniformity in decision-making, and judges who do not have as much expertise or background could be making vital decisions in which the energy security of our nation hangs in the balance.”
The House rejected this amendment by a vote of 205-222. Voting “yea” were 181 Democrats and 24 Republicans. 212 Republicans and 10 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected an amendment that would have allowed district courts outside the Fifth Circuit to hear civil lawsuits regarding oil-drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico.