Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I rise to discuss an issue that is very important to Louisianians and folks along the gulf coast and very important to the entire country, which is continuing the de facto moratorium--the ``permatorium'' is what many folks have called it--in terms of drilling, energy production in the Gulf of Mexico.
There is one particular headline I want to point out in this context that is very frustrating and baffling. If it weren't so serious, it would be comical. Over the last several months, Louisianians have grown increasingly frustrated with the Interior Department in particular--and in particular, what used to be called MMS but is now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement or BOEMRE. Louisianians have come to pronounce that ``bummer.'' That is because that agency hasn't been doing its work to issue permits to get Americans back to work to produce American energy.
Related to that, earlier this week I publicly announced a hold on Dr. Scott Doney to be chief scientist at NOAA until Interior and BOEMRE show that it is capable of responding to a letter I had sent it about this ``permatorium,'' the sad state of affairs, and until they are willing to explain to Congress findings in an IG report I had requested back in June.
Since June of this year, not a single new exploration plan or deepwater permit to drill has been approved by these bureaucracies--not a single one--idling billions of dollars of assets and forcing companies to cut their 2011 investment in the gulf to one-third of what it was a year ago.
Time and again we have heard from BOEMRE and Interior Secretary Salazar that they don't have enough people to issue permits. They need more staff and they need to dedicate resources. They need more money and they need to focus on this permitting program. I have also been told that Interior needs more money--specifically $100 million additional.
In light of all these claims, all of these requests--more people and more money--and in light of the enormous frustration we feel in Louisiana and in the gulf, I want to get to this little newspaper headline I referenced a few minutes ago. It came out yesterday, and it reads: ``BOEMRE Team Returns from Papua, New Guinea Visit After Sharing Technical Expertise with Officials.''
Experts from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) recently completed a technical assistance workshop on offshore oil and gas regulatory programs for the Government of Papua, New Guinea. The workshop was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Energy Governance and Capacity Initiative.
This is the same Interior Department that can't get a single exploration plan, not a single deepwater permit to drill out the door; the same Interior Department and BOEMRE that claims they need more money to hire more staff to get this job done.
Apparently, they have plenty latitude and staff and money for a 3-day workshop in Papua, New Guinea, to discuss offshore permitting, which they can't get done in the United States.
I think we need to take a little time to explain to the Government of Papua, New Guinea, that the last thing in the world they want to do, assuming they are interested in creating jobs at home through a workable permitting process, is to talk to these folks. These are the same folks who can't get a single deepwater permit or a single exploration plan out the door.
As I said, this would be comical except it is not because it is dead serious, and it is losing American jobs and it is exporting economic activity from our country overseas.
The Interior Department is crushing domestic energy production that is destroying good-paying jobs, losing revenue for the Treasury, and making America more energy insecure. If I can give one simple recommendation to BOEMRE this holiday season in regard to expediting the permitting process, maybe they should keep their staff planted in their seats at home. Maybe they should pass on the next trip to Papua, New Guinea, and the next workshop with our partners around the globe. Maybe they should focus on getting the first exploration plan and the first new deepwater permit out the door. Maybe they should get that job done and put Americans back to work producing American energy before more of these outrageous trips and expenses.
I yield the floor.