Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) today called on Republicans to end their hypocrisy on the sequester and oil and gas development, pointing to looming budget cuts that will decimate the Interior Department's ability to lease public land, issue permits for drilling, and enforce safety regulations to protect the environment. Rep. Markey released an analysis that details possible cuts in energy and mineral resource programs if Republicans follow through on their threats and allow the sequester to proceed.
"Republicans say they want to 'drill baby drill'. Yet by letting the sequester go forward, Republicans in Congress will put the brakes on oil and gas development on public lands in America and reduce our ability to protect against another offshore drilling disaster," said Rep. Markey, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee. "It's time to end the GOP hypocrisy. Republicans should join with Democrats and stop the devastating sequester cuts that would mean reductions in oil and gas leasing and production, and make it harder to protect the environment."
If implemented, the sequester will require $1.2 trillion in immediate, across-the-board spending cuts, meaning an 8.2 percent reduction in funding for federal agencies and departments. At the U.S. Department of the Interior, an 8.2 percent across-the-board reduction would:
--Cut offshore oil and gas leasing by $6.2 million below President Obama's 2013 budget request.
--Cut $92 million from the Bureau of Land Management, including $8.8 million from onshore energy and mineral management, which handles leasing for oil, gas, coal and renewables.
--Cause about 300 fewer onshore oil and gas leases to be "issued in Western states such as Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico, delaying prospective production from those lease tracts," according to the Interior Department.
--Cut $6 million and 52 employees from safety oversight for offshore drilling, just as key reforms are being implemented in response to the BP oil spill.
In his rebuttal to the State of the Union last Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Republicans want to "open up more federal lands for safe and responsible exploration." But the sequester cuts described above would stop drilling from happening on public lands that have already been approved for drilling.
"The sequester cuts are the biggest threat to new drilling right now," Rep. Markey said. "Oil and gas production is up in the Obama administration, despite the Republicans' rhetoric. If the sequester cuts happen, Republicans will have only themselves to blame when American energy production declines."
Republicans are also threatening to shut down the government rather than pass new appropriations, which must be approved by March 27 to keep agencies and departments operating. Such a move would be even more devastating for oil and gas production and drilling safety. Indeed, onshore oil and gas leasing activities would be entirely closed, as well as most permitting, inspection and enforcement work.
The document released by Rep. Markey today discusses the consequences of both the sequester and a government shutdown.