U.S. Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) today cosponsored a resolution that outlines steps the U.S. Department of the Interior should take to revive offshore energy production which has stagnated despite the lifting of federal drilling bans.
The bipartisan resolution, authored by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), details the plight of offshore energy exploration since the tragic Deepwater Horizon blowout last April, the subsequent moratoria on production and the ongoing delays in the federal permit process. In addition to seeking adequate guidance to those seeking new permits, the measure discusses the importance of offshore production to meet the natural gas and petroleum demand in the United States.
"The ongoing delays in the offshore permitting process have cast a pall on energy production and the overall Gulf Coast economy. Nobody wants a repeat of the Deepwater Horizon blowout, but neither do we want to hamstring an industry that creates jobs, contributes to our state's treasury and adds to our economy," Cochran said. "This resolution outlines the steps the Interior Department should take to truly allow offshore shallow and deepwater energy exploration."
"We are importing far too much oil," said Wicker. "The President's continued obstruction to offshore energy exploration hampers our ability to meet our energy needs. Arbitrarily limiting American production not only worsens our dependence on foreign energy sources, it costs us important jobs."
Delays in issuing new post-moratorium permits, the resolution points out, have contributed to at least 13 shallow water rigs and at least six deepwater rigs leaving the U.S. holdings in the Gulf of Mexico for work in international waters. It notes that the capacity of the U.S. deepwater fleet has been diminished by 40 percent as a result of a de facto moratorium.
The resolution lists steps that can be taken to improve the permitting process for production of American-owned oil and natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico. The resolution recommends that the Secretary of the Interior should:
* Streamline the review and appropriate approval of applications for both shallow and deepwater permits in the Outer Continental Shelf;
* Provide applicants with a template of a completed permit application that meets all new safety and environmental regulations;
* Provide applicants with written guidance and clarification regarding new safety requirements; and
* Provide timely and detailed explanations on areas where a permit application does not satisfy new requirements.
The resolution notes that before the oil spill and resulting moratoriums, the Gulf of Mexico provided about 30 percent of the oil and 10 percent of the natural gas produced in the United States, involved more than 400,000 jobs in the region and in 2009 provided about $20 billion in revenues to federal, state and local governments through royalties, bonuses and tax collections.
In addition to Cochran and Wicker, the Hutchison resolution is cosponsored by Mary Landrieu (D-La.), David Vitter (R-La.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska).