WASHINGTON -- Republican Rep. Jon Porter fired an opening shot on energy Monday against challenger Dina Titus, saying the Democrat has shifted her position on offshore oil drilling as a strategy to combat rising gasoline prices.
Titus, the state senator from Las Vegas, in recent interviews said she supports lifting the federal ban on offshore drilling and allowing states to decide whether to allow exploration off their coastlines.
In a sign energy will be a big issue in the race, Porter on Monday said Titus voted otherwise when the Legislature took up an offshore oil resolution during the 2007 session.
Senate Joint Resolution 8 called on President Bush to revoke White House policies that prevent leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf. It urged that offshore development "proceed in an environmentally responsible manner."
The resolution passed 15-6. Titus was one of the half dozen senators who voted against it.
"Gas was expensive in 2007, and it has gone up 70 percent since that resolution," Porter said. "This is the most important issue of our day, and Nevadans deserve to have a straight answer on the number one issue facing Nevada."
Titus on Monday defended the vote, saying it was consistent with her stance on offshore drilling. She supports it but with conditions.
Titus said the resolution did not specify that coastal states should have the authority to approve or disapprove drilling, nor that a portion of the royalties should be returned to the states for investment in renewable energy sources.
The resolution also did not declare that oil removed from fresh fields should be sold within the United States and not exported. The export restriction would be similar to one in place for Alaskan oil.
"I have said several times that I would support offshore drilling under certain conditions," Titus said. "None of those were in that resolution."
Porter's attack came on a day when President Bush announced he was lifting a White House no-drilling order and challenged Congress to do the same. The Porter-Titus race in Clark County's Congressional District 3 is turning into one of the most closely watched House contests in the nation.
Before the Nevada Senate resolution was passed, Titus proposed an amendment that failed, according to the legislative journal. It would have removed language supporting offshore exploration, and replaced it with provisions supporting "research, development and construction of renewable energy facilities."
"I believe it would be more appropriate for the Nevada legislature to use its political power to appeal to Washington not to support the offshore drilling industry but rather to foster our own, homegrown, renewable energy resources." Titus said in a statement inserted into the record.
"Let us put our voice behind renewable energy as opposed to offshore drilling," Titus said at the time.
Discussing the amendment on Monday, Titus said: "I thought it was more appropriate for the Legislature to be doing something that directly benefited Nevada" and its trove of renewable sources.
"Renewables are the key to the long term," Titus said. "A key in the short term is exploration. I don't believe in giving carte blanche to the oil companies, but I support it with conditions."
In any case, Titus maintained her polices would be of more benefit to Nevadans than Porter's, which she said merely mimic President Bush.
"I agree that Nevadans deserve a straight-up answer on energy," Titus said. "They also deserve to have their interests protected, and not the oil companies that Porter has voted tax breaks."
During Porter's three terms, gasoline prices have increased from $1.72 per gallon nationally to $4.11 per gallon, Titus said. In Nevada, gasoline increased from $1.92 in 2003 to around $4.20 today, she said.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760.