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Offshore Production and Safety Act

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

OFFSHORE PRODUCTION AND SAFETY ACT

Mr. TESTER. Mr. President, I rise today to discuss the importance of responsibly increasing our domestic drilling and energy production in order to secure America's energy future. Montana is home to the Bakken oil and gasfield, the largest technically recoverable onshore oilfield in the United States. In 2007, production from Elm Coulee field in Richland County averaged 53,000 barrels per day--more than the entire State of Montana a few years earlier. That number is expected to rise significantly as new pathways to market are put in place. Advancements in oil and gas technology are also making it possible for us to extract resources that just 5 years ago no one thought was possible.

I will continue to push responsible development of the Bakken Field. Oil and gas development in the Bakken region has applied new technology originally designed to enhance natural gas development and turned a small field into the largest onshore field in the United States. Our job in the Senate should be to encourage these kinds of innovations. Our job in the Senate should be to make sure that in places like the Bakken, where it makes all the sense in the world to develop, government agencies approve and permit exploration and development in a timely fashion. The Bakken is a strong example of where Montana is contributing to increasing American-made energy.

The Outer Continental Shelf is another good example. We can and should encourage investment in this area so that we increase production to meet our needs as the consumer of 25 percent of the world's produced oil. We must also continue to explore for new resources--and prove those--since as of now we only have 3 percent of the world's reserves.

Unfortunately, there are a number of proposals supported by my colleagues across the aisle who do not responsibly balance the U.S. energy needs with our responsibility to protect our coastal communities and other economic livelihoods. Specifically, S. 953 does the exact opposite of what we need to safely and responsibly increase American production.

The systemic lack of oversight in the Minerals Management Service was a critical component of last year's Deepwater Horizon explosion and 3-month oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The failure of BP, Halliburton and others to follow safety requirements, and the failure of the Federal Government to enforce these requirements, has cost our country tens of millions of dollars. These irresponsible oversights caused significant economic and environmental harm to an entire region.

In response to this disaster, the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling stated as their first finding that ``the explosive loss of the Macondo well could have been prevented.'' The report key findings also state, ``Fundamental reform will be needed in both the structure of those in charge of the regulator oversight and their internal decision making process to ensure their political autonomy, technical expertise, and the full consideration of environmental protection concerns.''

S. 953 does the exact opposite of what the offshore drilling commission recommended by encouraging lax oversight by setting an arbitrary timeline of 60 days, allowing insufficient time for in-depth analysis. Let's be honest: the practical effect of that policy would be for certain administrations to approve permits that they should not approve while other administrations reject permits that could ultimately have been approved. This kind of rush to judgment will only inject even more politics into our energy debates. As the Senate has shown time and again, that is the last thing we need.

No, it is time for a little less politicking and a little more common sense in our energy policy. Yet this bill also forces the Department of Interior to reissue leases without any environmental review--the opposite of the full environmental consideration the BP oilspill commission suggested. When a group of folks get together and tell you how to prevent another Gulf of Mexico disaster, the commonsense thing to do is listen to them.

I believe there are responsible measures we can take and should take to increase domestic protection, which makes us more energy secure and helps to insulate us from unpredictable ups and downs in world production. We need to dedicate resources to efficiently and effectively processing drilling applications. But tying the agencies' hands behind their backs with arbitrary deadlines or forcing them to hold lease sales and not process environmental reviews does not address the problem.

If the Deepwater Horizon disaster proved anything, it is that cutting corners doesn't promote our economy or protect our environment. Encouraging regulators to look the other way or deny permits because they cannot fully consider them is antithetical to good governance. That is not good for American production, American jobs or American energy security.


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