Miami lawmaker proposes anti-oil bill

Trying to stem the tide of oil drilling in Cuban waters, Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami) on Friday launched a bill that would punish foreign oil companies for doing offshore business in Cuba.

With HR 2047, which would be amended to the Libertad Act, the long-time anti-Castro activist is trying to prevent drilling in Cuban waters altogether. A first platform is expected to arrive in Cuban waters in September for an exploratory drill on behalf of a consortium led by Spain’s Repsol YPF.

“We cannot allow the Castro regime to become the oil tycoons of the Caribbean,” said Ros-Lehtinen, who is the chairman of the House foreign affairs committee, in a press release.

If the bill passes, officers of third-country oil companies drilling in Cuban waters and their families as well as controlling shareholders 
would be denied U.S. visas. Ros-Lehtinen’s bill does not address the issue of oil drilling in Bahamian waters, which also borders the congresswoman’s district; a Norwegian oil company is set to begin exploration there in 2012.

A previous bill launched by Florida Rep. Vernon Buchanan (R-Sarasota) that would have punished oil companies by denying them drilling concessions in U.S. waters has stalled in committees.

Three months earlier, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, launched a senate bill that would compel the U.S. government to seek an agreement with Cuba over drilling safety and spill response. Nelson also urged the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to exert pressure on the Spanish government to stop Spanish oil company Repsol.

The bill is similar to a section of the Helms-Burton Act that in the 1990s that denied access to officers of foreign companies found “trafficking” in goods confiscated by the Cuban state after the revolution. Only a handful business executives were denied U.S. visa; the law didn’t deter foreign companies from investing on the island.

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