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Mr. RICHMOND. Mr. Chairman, what this amendment does is increase the funding for our Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement by $5 million. And what it would do is it would allow BOEMRE to quicken the pace of permit approval and, in turn, promote the rate of oil and gas investment in the gulf region. To accomplish this, we will reduce the Rangeland Management Fund by $6 million, which still leaves that fund above its fiscal year 2011 funding level.
Let me point out to you why this is the wise thing to do. In response to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the resulting oil spill last year, in May, the administration issued a temporary moratorium, halting permits of oil and gas production on the Outer Continental Shelf. The moratorium was lifted in October of last year; but since then, the issuance of permits has been slow. President Obama directed BOEMRE to reorganize itself into two independent groups: one that handles revenue from oil and gas leasing, and the other that regulates the oil and gas industry. This is all a change that most of us believe is necessary and wise.
However, the speed of permitting activity has not returned to pre-Deepwater Horizon levels. There is a significant and growing backlog of drilling plans pending approval. The number of pending deepwater exploration and development plans has increased by more than 250 percent. This is up from a historical average of 18 plans pending to now nearly 65 pending approval.
Also there's a drastic decline in drilling permit approvals. Deepwater exploration and development drilling permit approvals have also declined by approximately 80 percent, down from an average of nearly 160 per year to a pace of only 30 per year. Shallow water exploration and development drilling permits approvals have also dropped by nearly 50 percent from an average of 390 per year to a pace of fewer than 180 a year.
Mr. Chairman, I will tell you that there was a recent study that showed that increasing the pace of permitting and, subsequently, the pace and scale of investment in the gulf would create 230,000 domestic jobs in 2012 as well as more than $44 billion in U.S. gross domestic product.
I just want to focus on that number for a second, Mr. Chairman, because as we have been here for the 112th Congress, the American people have been demanding that we use the money we have efficiently so that we can invest in the American people and get a return on our investment. So here we are asking the American people for $5 million and are asking our colleagues on the other side of the aisle who earlier this year proposed legislation that was purported to increase drilling and to lower gas prices. Well, now they have the opportunity to take $5 million, invest it in BOEMRE, and have the opportunity to create 230,000 jobs.
There are 14.1 million people in this country who are actively seeking employment and cannot find it. Here we have a chance to help 230,000 of them in fiscal year 2012 alone, and we have the ability to increase our gross domestic product by $44 million.
Mr. Chairman, I think that's what the American people are demanding. They want us to use our money wisely. That's what this amendment does. And I will just ask my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this. It's a job creation amendment.
I yield back the balance of my time.
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