Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) has offered a discussion draft of the Jobs and Energy Permitting Act, which would eliminate needless permitting delays that have stalled important energy production opportunities off the coast of Alaska. It is the latest in a series of legislative proposals through Republicans' American Energy Initiative to increase the production of American-made energy.
"This bill will create tens of thousands of jobs, increase energy security, and lessen our dependence on foreign oil," Rep. Gardner said. "It will add billions of dollars in salary to Alaska and other states over the next several decades, bringing good paying jobs to our country."
Confusion and uncertainty surrounding the EPA's decision making process for air permits is delaying energy exploration in the Alaskan Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). Permits that have already been granted by the EPA are stalled by the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB), sometimes for years.
Gardner's bill aims to remove the duplication created by EPA and EAB permitting process. Rather than allowing the back and forth between the two, the EPA would be required to take a final action on all permits within six month of the request. Any appeals will go to the D.C. Circuit Court for resolution. By streamlining the permitting process, Gardner says that more than 1 million barrels of oil a day can be pumped from Alaska to the rest of the country, easing our demand on foreign oil and decreasing our oil imports by 10 percent.
The Jobs and Energy Permitting Act had a draft hearing in the Energy and Power Subcommittee this morning.
The Jobs and Energy Permitting Act will be formally introduced soon.
Opening Statement of Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) as prepared:
I come from an energy producing state, and I have had the privilege of collaborating with many colleagues from other such states in a project we are calling the American Energy Initiative. Of course, there are significant regional differences. The oil and gas industry in the Rockies faces different technical, economic, and legal challenges than oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico or elsewhere. And coal production in Colorado and other western coal states has both similarities and differences with our Appalachian counterparts.
But whichever energy-producing state we come from, one thing we all have in common is that the federal government is holding us back from meeting our potential to produce more domestic energy. Changing that is going to be a big part of the American Energy Initiative.
This is our fourth multi-day hearing on the American Energy Initiative, and today we are going to focus on offshore oil and gas production, and especially streamlining the process of offshore permitting. These impediments have already delayed activities in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska's North Slope, where exploration has yet to even begin on leases that were signed over 5 years ago. The Jobs and Energy Permitting Act of 2011 discussion draft seeks to address current problems in EPA's offshore permitting requirements.
Offshore Alaska holds tremendous potential, but not if we allow the status quo to continue. Production in the Arctic OCS could provide a million barrels of oil a day -- comparable to what we currently get from Saudi Arabia. But unlike Saudi Arabia, this domestic production is blocked by a convoluted permitting system in place that is difficult if not impossible to navigate. The fact that Shell, the owner of the leases, had already secured something like 35 permits, but could not start drilling because it could not get the 36th would be funny if not for the adverse consequences in lost domestic energy and lost jobs.
Keep in mind, we are not talking about an area the federal government has placed off limits to energy leasing, of which there are far too many. We are talking about an area that was already leased but for which the lease is essentially being nullified with red tape. That needs to change.
The current anti-domestic energy philosophy is not what the American people want. No matter how many times President Obama insists that America doesn't have enough domestic oil to make any difference, the public isn't buying it. They want our oil supplies unlocked, and understand full well the benefits of doing so. They see the impact that production has in their communities in the jobs it brings. Some estimates have suggested that developing in the OCS has the potential to create over 50,000 jobs annually and over $100 billion in payroll over the next 50 years -- and we're not just talking about jobs and payroll in Alaska. Increased oil and gas production in Alaska will result in jobs across the United States.
One thing I can attest to is that a majority of Coloradans support increased energy production in the state. Yes, we expect strong environmental safeguards, but we don't want those safeguards to be exploited by activists into an excuse to shut down the energy industry. Coloradans are proud to live in a state that produces energy for the rest of the nation, and recognize the benefits in terms of high paying jobs as well as state and local revenues. And as we will soon hear, that sentiment is as true of native Alaskans as it is of native Coloradans. In fact, there are very few elected officials from Alaska who support the existing constraints on energy production there.
We have a great panel, including some who came from very far away to be here and who booked their flights in the midst of a threatened government shutdown, so we really appreciate it. And I look forward to learning more about Alaska's energy situation, and what we in Congress can do to improve it. Thank you.