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Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 - Motion to Proceed

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Location: Washington, DC


GULF OF MEXICO ENERGY SECURITY ACT OF 2006--MOTION TO PROCEED -- (Senate - July 31, 2006)

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Under the previous order, the hour of 3 p.m. having arrived, the Senate will resume consideration of S. 3711, which the clerk will report.

The bill clerk read as follows:

A bill (S. 3711) to enhance the energy independence and security of the United States by providing for exploration, development, and production activities for mineral resources in the Gulf of Mexico, and for other purposes.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Under the previous order, the time until 5:30 p.m. shall be divided equally between the two managers or their designees.

The Senator from Louisiana is recognized.

Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, before the Senator from Florida leaves the floor--and he may be staying through the debate--he has been extremely essential and instrumental and vital to the compromise that has come forward. I want to thank him for his leadership. As he alluded to, the five States in the gulf coast came together--the States of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and the State of the presiding officer, Texas, and he did an outstanding job as part of the coalition as well--with an arrangement that would have many mutual beneficial parts. One, it is going to provide oil and gas, and particularly natural gas. That is in such short supply. The Senator from Florida knows and all of our colleagues from Florida understand that natural gas is a raw material that is used to literally produce almost every product in America that you can think of, from rubber tires, to the automobiles themselves, to the products of ethanol, to fertilizers, chemicals--you name it, natural gas is used as a raw material.

The prices are too high. They have to come down. The industry is doing a very good job of conserving, but we must open domestic supply, as well as--unfortunately, because the demand is so high--import liquefied natural gas, now that the technology has presented itself. But before we establish another network of dependency, let's at least do our part and produce the natural gas we have here. So on this bill, the Gulf Coast States have come together to open up 8 million new acres, four times more than the original bill--in the compromise we provided, four times more than the original bill to open natural gas for the country.

The other beneficial aspect of this bill is establishing a strong and reliable, trustworthy partnership between the Federal Government and the Gulf Coast States--the four producing States, of which Texas is one--and to say the infrastructure that we provide, basically allowing the Federal Government to access the land it owns--and there is no question that this land off the coast of the United States is owned by everybody, not just the States along the coast. But, frankly, as you know, without our highways and helicopter pads, and our sheds, and our boat launches, and our shipping facilities, and fabrication facilities, the Federal Government could not even access the minerals. So, basically, by providing the servitude and the services and the platform, if you will, to host this great industry, we are saying let us share in all future revenues--as you know, 37.5 percent. That is the second most important thing in my mind that has been established.

For Louisiana's purposes, and according to the way the bill is currently structured for all of the Gulf Coast States, we will use that money to restore a great coastline, to secure and buffer America's only energy coast. We don't have to roll the reels back or rewind the tape of Katrina and Rita. We know what megastorms can mean for the gulf coast. We have all lived through them. We have watched our families struggle. We have watched our constituents struggle, having lost homes, churches, and schools, having seen the great infrastructure, the huge pipelines and facilities, drilling ships, and oil rigs and platforms bent by the great winds and waves. We know how important it is to take a little bit of that money we are paying in taxes and reinvest back into the gulf coast to strengthen the infrastructure, not just for the people who live there in the big towns such as New Orleans and Creole, LA, and midsize towns such as Beaumont and Galveston, and Gulfport, and Pass Christian, but for the whole Nation, because the Nation needs the gulf coast to be strong and secure in these storms.

So using this money to restore the great wetlands, which our scientists know we can do--but, frankly, we have not had the money to do it. People say, Senator, get a plan. I could almost fill up this Chamber with plans our people have had--or I can say dreams our people have had.

We have dreamed all we can dream. We have thought all we can think about this. We need money to turn the dirt and restore the wetlands. The technology is there to do it.

That is another great reason that we can have industry and the environmental community support this bill shoulder to shoulder, because the uses of the revenue sharing are going to be of such benefits to our communities.

Besides the drilling and the additional revenues for the gulf coast and the additional gas for the Nation, we also have the benefit of directing these revenues to a great purpose, which is the restoration of these wetlands.

Just a little more on that subject that might bring this home to those who are listening. When Katrina and Rita hit--and we are just about a month away from the anniversary, August 29 for Katrina and about 7 weeks away from the anniversary of Rita--we lost an area the size of the District of Columbia to open water, 100 square miles. The District isn't 100 square miles today, as you know, Mr. President, because a portion was given back to Virginia, but about 70 square miles is the District of Columbia now. We lost in a matter of a few days that amount of expanse. It went from marsh to open water because of the catastrophic loss of this great wetland. At that rate, all of our communities along the gulf coast will eventually be threatened.

I laugh at my colleagues from Arkansas because the reason they are very supportive of this bill is because they told me privately: Senator, we don't want to be a coastal State; we like Arkansas the way it is.

I know that is a little bit of an exaggeration, but, Mr. President, you have been down to east Texas, to Padre Island, to Galveston and coastal communities in Texas. You understand the wetland losses that are occurring. Ours in Louisiana are exacerbated because we are the mouth of the Mississippi River. We are truly a delta, not just a coastal wetland, which you find all over our coast from the east to the west. But the delta, the mouth of the river system, is strong, yet fragile, and these wetlands are leaving us in extraordinary numbers. This money, this sharing of revenues we are going to get from this bill, will go a long way to build on the science and technology that is there to restore these wetlands. We know we can do it.

Mr. President, 37.5 percent will go to the gulf coast producing States for these purposes; 12.5 percent will establish a great stream of revenue for the Land and Water Conservation Fund that benefits the whole Nation.

I see the Democratic whip on the floor. I will wrap up my remarks in just a moment. I think I am scheduled later to speak.

I am very grateful to particularly Senator Salazar and others who stepped up--Senator Alexander--and said: Senator Landrieu, why don't we try, with Senator Domenici's leadership, to see if we can restore the real purpose of the Land and Water Conservation Fund when it was created in 1965.

I wish I could take credit for creating it. I didn't, but I have been determined since I got here to help fund it so we can live up to a promise we made to America's Governors a long time ago: If you want to build parks, we will help you. If you want to build recreational opportunities for your community, we will help you. The Federal Government said that and then backtracked year after year until today we are spending less than $40 million a year nationally. I would say that is a disgrace, $40 million nationally. The program is authorized at $450 million. At $450 million, it is still not enough, but at least it gives a few million dollars to each State to match private donations, to match faith-based donations, to match literally the pennies children collect for the planting of a tree in a park or the expansion of a bike path that means a lot to them. We can at least do our part in Congress, and this bill will do that.

Then finally, 50 percent will go to the Federal Treasury. So as those revenues come in, we can help reduce the deficit, help encourage drilling where people will accept it. Maybe they won't accept it everywhere. We have made a lot of mistakes in Louisiana, we admit it. We have learned from our mistakes. We have perfected the technology, and we believe we can minimize the environmental footprint and maximize the benefit to the Federal Treasury. There are many benefits.

I yield the time to those scheduled to speak as well. I have some time reserved later in the day. I yield back the remainder of my time.

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Ms. LANDRIEU. I thank the Senator. I know our colleague from Massachusetts is here to speak on another subject, but I would just ask a question of the distinguished Senator from Virginia.

First of all, I would like to thank him for the bill he has introduced. I know in the form of an amendment it won't be appropriate in this debate, but I thank him for that.

Would the Senator just explain briefly for maybe a minute or so the feelings of people in Virginia--your legislature has done a lot of good work--about the possibilities of opening additional drilling, perhaps at a later date, and how that might affect the neighbors of Maryland, Delaware even, and perhaps even the Carolinas? Could the Senator just comment for a minute about how those negotiations are potentially moving forward, if not for this bill, then maybe at a later time?

Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I thank my distinguished colleague from Louisiana. Indeed, in two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly of Virginia, this subject has been on the agenda and bills have been passed by the House of Delegates and State Senate to send bills to the Governor. For whatever reason, Governor Warner--I am not here to criticize, but he saw fit not to let the bill become legislation, and Governor Kaine likewise disapproved of the language this past legislative session encouraging offshore development. I think progress has been made in our legislature as evidenced by the overwhelming votes of more than 75 percent of the State Senate and House of Delegates on this year's bill, and clearly the legislature is speaking for the people of Virginia, and they are ready to take on this challenge and to accept the consequences, whatever they may be. But I repeat: I think technology has gotten to the point where that risk is minimal, in my judgment. How it would affect adjoining States, that is subject to debate. If there were a mishap off the shore of Virginia and depending on the winds, the drift, the seas, and other things, if there were an accident which did emit some pollution, I am not sure anyone could write that into law as to what happens. It is important to note that my amendment includes provisions requiring the concurrence of neighboring states that would be within twenty miles of any production and, as I have said before, modern technology has made these risks very minimal.

But it is an important aspect worth consideration--any legislation of the type I have offered. But it would seem to me collectively the coastal States should look to this as a possible increase in their energy and financial resources. As a matter of fact, my bill allows the citizens of any coastal State authorizing such production to retain a significant part of the proceeds from such drilling. I thank you for asking the question.

Ms. LANDRIEU. I thank the Senator for his comments.

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Ms. LANDRIEU. The Senator is on to a very excellent point. I was wondering if he could remind those listening, getting ready for the vote, one of the reasons the debate was restricted is so that we could move on this very important piece of legislation. But if the Senator would remind those of the good things that were done in last year's Energy bill on conservation so that we didn't need a broad debate, we did so many good things, as the Senator will recall, in the last Energy bill to conserve, promote renewables. The Senator is well aware of the many things since he led that fight.

Mr. DOMENICI. The Senator is absolutely correct. I have been referring to the Chair and the Presiding Officer in one way because it was the Senator from Florida, talking to him as the Senator from Florida. He has taken a seat as a Senator. Another Senator from the committee, Senator LAMAR ALEXANDER, has taken the Presiding Officer's seat.

(Mr. ALEXANDER assumed the Chair.)

Mr. DOMENICI. The question fits right in with all four. Lamar Alexander is on the Committee of Energy and Natural Resources, as is the Senator from Florida. A big participant is the Senator from Tennessee. I am looking at the Senator who took on the issue of natural gas, the Senator from Tennessee. We knew we could not do this on that bill, so we put it off. We did 10 or 15 major things that are still having an impact on America--everything from seeing to it that all possibilities for the alternative of shale being turned into oil be given a chance. It might happen. We promoted coal to gas, coal to liquid. The only thing keeping that from happening is the uncertainty of investment because the price of $70 is not certain. If we can address that issue, we will fix that, too. Ethanol came out of that bill. The whole idea of hybrid automobiles came out of that bill. Scores of that are in the area of conservation, which were promoted even before I was chairman; they are on that bill and are done. So this is a followup for some supply. That is why it is important that we get it done.

I thank the Senator for the question. There are many other things we could list. I thank the Senate for yielding me additional time.

I yield the floor.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Louisiana is recognized.

Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I think we are going to vote around 5:30. I may need 10 minutes to speak, and others may follow suit. I wanted to follow up on what Chairman Domenici said, as a member of the Energy Committee--and, Mr. President, you serve so ably on that committee, as does the Senator from Florida--to say exactly that point.

Some people have been critical of this debate, questioning why it is so limited. The answer is because almost everything was included in last year's Energy bill, which we debated for 10 years--a lot of debate, over weeks and months, over a 10-year period. This part was the part that was left out--actually increasing the supply of gas. As the Senator from New Mexico said earlier, today is probably a propitious day to be debating this because the price went up over a dollar.

Earlier today, the manufacturing association, the agricultural interests, and the paper and pulp industry shared a press conference. The equivalent price of gas to oil, when gas went up earlier to $15--it is now today at $8, yesterday at $7. But at $15, which is what our industry folks pay, and residents pay as well--that high price of gas--it was the equivalent of a $7-per-gallon price of gasoline at the pump. So if you are thinking, because all of us know when we fill our tank up how expensive that $2.89 or $3.10 or $3.25 is--can you imagine the shock of going to the pump and having it say $7.50 a gallon? Imagine that. That is how high the price of gas got this year in the United States of America.

So the reason our farmers are supporting this bill, the reason rural communities are supporting this bill, the reason the manufacturing industries are supporting this bill, the reason the chemical association is supporting this bill, and many environmental groups as well, is because we must find more domestic supply to reduce the price of natural gas.

We are going to also have to import, unfortunately, more liquefied natural gas. I say ``unfortunately,'' although my State benefits from those imports. I can honestly say that I really belong to the group of Senators who believe we can be energy independent, and we should. This bill is the piece that didn't get done in the last energy bill, and it must get done before we begin writing another comprehensive energy bill, which we can and will do because there is always room for improvement.

I wanted to answer the critics about why just focus on this. It wasn't done in the last bill, so it needs to get done today. Why the gulf coast? Because the gulf coast Senators came together, working with Senator Domenici, and figured out our neighborhood. We live in the neighborhood of the gulf coast. Five States share the gulf; four of us drill and one doesn't. Maybe that one will one day, but who knows? That is for the State of Florida to decide. We will defer that debate. Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama came together and decided we wanted to stay in the business despite the fact that there have been difficulties to our coast. We believe in drilling and strengthening America's domestic reserves. We want to continue to serve the coast, but we can and will not any longer do it for free.

My critics say: Well, Senator, you are not thinking about all the jobs you get and about the taxes. I am thinking about the jobs created, and we are grateful. I am thinking about the taxes we get from onshore drilling. But I am also thinking about the $150 billion in royalties that have been paid by the offshore industry to the Federal Government, of which Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama got zero.

When I think about our beaches, our coasts, our marshes, our great fishing places, and our beautiful marshland, it is compelling that we would enter into a smarter partnership for the future than the one we failed, for many reasons, to enter into in the past. So I am proud to have argued and helped with our gulf coast Senators to negotiate a good deal, a square deal for the gulf coast, and a good deal for the Federal Government.

I also repeat that the country needs the gas now. The gulf coast needs the revenues now, the country needs the jobs now, and the companies in the industry need the competitive edge now. Today, again, at that press conference earlier, it was shocking to see how many manufacturing jobs have been lost. When the price of natural gas for our manufacturing sector exceeds the price of labor, we have a serious problem. That problem is getting addressed at 5:30 today when the Senate votes to open, for the first time, almost 8.3 million new acres of rich natural gas and send a positive signal to the markets and to the industry that we are serious again about finding resources right here.

Fifth, the companies in these industries need to gain a competitive edge. The States will get a reliable partner in conservation. Mr. President, you have done more to spearhead that debate since you came to the Senate. You did it as Governor of Tennessee, as a Secretary for our country. You have been a leader in conservation. I have spoken many times about the coast and wetlands. I am not quite as passionate or articulate as you, but I share your enthusiasm for the fact that this Nation is a great nation of the outdoors. It separates America from our European neighbors. It sets us apart from places like Japan. We have great open spaces. It is the character of America, as I have heard you say many times.

If we don't work harder to preserve those open spaces, they will not be there because they just don't happen; they are dreamed about, nurtured, and created, and not by words, not by wishes, but by money that buys and sets aside land. I know we cannot do it in every place and for the Federal part, but for the States, for our 50 Governors who are looking to the Federal Government to be a good partner and want to work with nonprofit organizations to expand conservation, I say to my colleagues that this bill finds balance.

We tried to do this in 1965 when some great Senators, such as Scoop Jackson from Washington and others, created the Land and Water Conservation Fund--the first time ever that the Federal Government said: Let's create a fund to help the States. It wasn't much of one. You could barely see this little dot. It was probably $10 million for all the States. That is just pennies. But it was a beginning. We went up to $75 million and back down to $50 million, and we kept trying, through the budgets, to get a little bit of money set aside for our parks and bike paths and soccer fields where our kids play. I am not just talking about suburban areas, I am talking about urban areas, such as small city parks in New Orleans or the large Central Park in New York. We did a pretty good job over time, and we have fallen off the wagon, if you will. It is time to get back up in the saddle and fund the Land and Water Conservation. That is what this bill does.

To some undecided Democrats who are thinking: What should I do, please consider that the country needs the gas, manufacturing needs their competitive edge back, the gulf coast could certainly use the revenues, the country needs the jobs, and the States need a reliable, steady stream of revenue for the Land and Water Conservation Fund that our Governors, legislators, mayors, county commissioners, and parish officials in Louisiana can certainly count on to help. It is down to $40 million, one of the lowest levels it has been.

Under this bill, it will go up $450 million a year. Not right away, but over time it will go up to its full authorized funding. We are going to do what we can between now and the time the bill gets to the House to make these adjustments in these early years to get these numbers up. We will see. We cannot make any promises because there is a lot to be done. The idea is to pass this bill today and get something to the President's desk that he can sign.

I thank the administration for supporting the framework of the Senate bill, for Secretary Kempthorne's visit to Louisiana and Mississippi, to the gulf coast. I thank all Senators who have come down--almost all of them now have come before the anniversary of Katrina--and seen firsthand the great needs America's only energy coast has.

I want to show a final picture of the gulf coast because this is what I have shown so many times when I have come to the Senate floor. This is America's only energy coast. I am not making this up. This is a USGS satellite view of the Gulf of Mexico. You see the great boot of Louisiana, the mouth of the Mississippi River here, Mobile Bay, Galveston, and the great expanse of the Texas coast. This is America's energy coast. All of these are pipelines that are out into the gulf. There is no way to get oil and gas from this part of the gulf unless you connect it to someplace on land. Whether it is Port Fourchon, Venice, Buras, Gulfport, Pass Christian, Morgan City, Beaumont, Cameron--all of these towns and communities support this industry.

When I see people come to the Chamber and say this doesn't belong to the States, this belongs to the Federal Government, I am not even making the argument; I know this belongs to the Federal Government. What I am saying is the Federal Government could not access what it owns without a right-of-way through the States of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. It is as simple as that. You can own all the valuable land you want; if you cannot access it, it is as if you don't own it.

That is what we are talking about, sharing these revenues to protect this great coastline. We most certainly need every penny we can get to build these levees to protect these people so we can keep the lights on in the Chamber.

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