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Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, several weeks ago, on September 28 of this year, I joined three of my Senate colleagues--Senators SHELBY, CORNYN, and HUTCHISON--in requesting from the Obama administration and its Interior Department a detailed plan about what their new 5-year energy lease plan was going to be, as well as their plans for moving forward with scheduled leasing. We finally got some of the answers to that today as the administration released its new 5-year oil and gas lease plan. I guess that is the good news--we finally got our questions answered. There is a lot more bad news, unfortunately, which is what those answers are.
It is deeply disappointing that we are not moving forward in a far more aggressive and positive way in developing our own domestic energy resources. As I said, today Secretary Salazar introduced President Obama's plan for the next 5 years of energy production, specifically on the Outer Continental Shelf. For those Members in the Senate and for others who are not as familiar with energy production on the Outer Continental Shelf, this is basically the 5-year strategy for us as a nation in terms of oil and gas production domestically--what we are going to do in these next 5 years to produce more of our own energy.
The opportunity was enormous. As you remember, a few years ago, in 2008, there was a bipartisan agreement to lift the decades-long ban on new offshore drilling and to open new areas off the Atlantic coast, off the Pacific Coast, and off the Arctic coast. Those opportunities were enormous. This map illustrates what the opportunities were given that 2008 lifting of the moratorium.
Previously, this had been off limits, this had been off limits--much of this had been off limits. But in 2008, on a bipartisan basis, Congress--even a Democratic Congress--heard the cry of the American people and said we need to develop more domestic energy resources, so we opened all of these possibilities.
Unfortunately, President Obama chose not to take advantage of those opportunities because this map represents his new 5-year plan announced today--the entire Atlantic coast, off limits; the entire Pacific Coast, off limits; much of the Alaska coast, off limits; the western gulf of Mexico, where there has traditionally been significant activity, of course, is still there, but even the eastern gulf has been withdrawn under related Federal law until 2022. That is deeply disappointing.
Put another way, in the previous 5-year lease plan, there were about 30 sale areas that were outlined to have lease sales, 30 specific areas around our Outer Continental Shelf. That was the previous 5-year plan. That plan existed when President Obama took office. One of the first things he did in the energy area, with his Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar was to throw that plan out the window almost immediately. This was well before the BP disaster. It was not in reaction to that disaster or anything else specific; they just threw that 5-year lease plan out the window. In this new 5-year lease plan--their first in the Obama administration, which they are announcing today--instead of 30 different areas, there are about 15. So they moved backward, cutting in half the number of lease sales that were planned in the 5-year plan.
Put another way, instead of having about six lease sales per year, there are only going to be three. As any fourth grader can tell you, doing that simple math, that is moving backward by a lot. That is going from about 30 lease sales to half that number--15. That is going from about six a year to half that number--three.
Our energy needs are not moving backward. Our desire and need for increased energy independence is not moving backward. Yet our effort and our ability to access our own domestic oil and gas on our own Outer Continental Shelf under this Obama plan is doing exactly that--it is moving backward.
Let me put it a different way. The Outer Continental Shelf of the United States is about 1.76 billion acres, almost 2 billion acres. But of all that vast expanse, only 38 million acres are actually leased. That is 2.16 percent of our entire Outer Continental Shelf. This new 5-year plan increases that a tiny amount at the margin. It keeps it under 3 percent. With a vast, energy-rich Outer Continental Shelf, we are still 3 percent or under of what we could access under this new plan.
Again, we are moving backward from the previous 5-year plan that President Obama threw out quickly upon taking office. That is deeply disappointing. If I am disappointed, I know there are some folks who are even more disappointed, including our colleagues in Virginia. Some select production and lease-sale activity off the Virginia coast was planned in the previous 5-year plan. That is out the window. As you can see, nothing can go on off the Atlantic. Also, four geologic basins off southern California and one geologic basin off northern California were in the previous 5-year plan. That is out the window. That is barred. There is nothing that can happen off the Pacific coast. Even in Alaska, the North Aleutian Basin and the Cook Inlet were in the previous 5-year plan. That is zeroed out. That is out the window. That is not in this new 5-year plan.
My basic question on this disappointing announcement is simple: How does excluding all of these areas and how does cutting back the previous 5-year plan to half that amount best meet our national energy needs? It seems to me it is clear it does not. In fact, it eliminates incredible job and revenue opportunities as well as our ability to increase energy independence, to produce more domestic energy, all of which we desperately need to do.
As the National Ocean Industries Association puts it:
A 5-year plan for the Outer Continental Shelf is the most important and defining action an administration takes in providing new oil and gas resources for building economic prosperity in this country.
They are right. It is the single most defining action with regard to Outer Continental Shelf energy production.
So with this action today, what is President Obama saying? What is his Interior Secretary saying? He is saying we are moving backward. He is saying we are going to do about half of what we were going to do in the previous 5-year plan which he canceled immediately upon taking office. That is very disappointing. It is disappointing for our energy picture. It is disappointing in terms of our need to lessen our reliance on foreign sources. It is also sadly disappointing in terms of the job picture because every lease sale that happens is thousands upon thousands of great American jobs to help build the economy and help to
get us back out of this horrible recession.
Finally, it is even deeply disappointing with regard to our challenge of lowering the deficit and debt. You know what. With energy production, the more we do, the more revenue we bring into the Federal Treasury to lower deficit and debt. In fact, after the Federal income tax, this is the single biggest category of Federal revenue into the Federal Treasury--royalties on domestic energy production.
So it is domestic energy, it is great American jobs, and it is lowering the deficit and debt with more revenue. President Obama today has said no to all of that. He has taken an enormous step backward. He has said, compared to the previous 5-year plan, that we are only doing half. He said that we are shutting off the Atlantic coast, we are shutting off the Pacific coast, and much of the coast off Alaska.
Today, I have written Secretary Salazar and expressed these concerns. I have asked the Secretary if they will reconsider this step backward because our country cannot afford it. We cannot afford it in energy terms. We cannot afford it in jobs terms. We cannot afford it in revenue terms when we need more revenue to lower deficit and debt. I will be following up aggressively on that letter, trying to understand the rationale behind this step backward and trying to get the Obama administration to reconsider.
Mr. President, I yield the floor. I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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