Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, tomorrow, May 6, will mark the 1-year anniversary of the formal moratorium placed on Gulf of Mexico energy production by President Obama and Secretary Salazar. I wish to speak on the eve of that occasion, particularly as our constituents continue to see the price at the pump go up and up, with really no end in sight. I think those two facts are deeply related because I think this moratorium, which continues as a de facto moratorium--a ``permatorium'' or a permit logjam to this day--is really one of the most poorly thought out, mismanaged, and ill-conceived energy decisions in terms of domestic energy production in our history.
The first of these moratoriums in the gulf--there are actually three different formal moratoriums--was announced on behalf of President Obama by Secretary Salazar 1 year ago tomorrow, May 6, 2010. It was done, in retrospect, we find out, very hastily and without scientific backing and justification. I say that because after that first moratorium was put down on May 6, 2010, on June 22 a Federal judge, Martin Feldman, of the Eastern District of Louisiana ruled against this job-crushing moratorium. It banned drilling below 500 feet of water for 6 months. But Judge Feldman put it on hold because he found that under Federal law it had failed to properly weigh a number of factors, including the economic impact it would have on the industry and surrounding communities.
I might add, in a hearing we had in the Senate about the administration's decision to place the moratorium in effect, it was shocking to hear administration officials say very directly--no holds barred--that they never considered any economic impact in the decision whatsoever. Again, failing to properly weigh the economic impact of the decision has been a chronic problem in some agencies, such as the EPA.
Unfortunately, this administration seems to have brought that same knee-jerk reaction to the Interior Department with the same economic illiteracy. In the Interior Department's infinite wisdom, on July 12, Secretary Salazar issued a backup second moratorium. The court struck down the first moratorium on the basis of existing Federal law, so he just came and issued a second moratorium on deepwater drilling. The second moratorium would soon be met with resistance and disappointment as coastal Louisiana communities would realize there was nothing they could do to stop Interior, which seemed hell-bent on adversely impacting their jobs.
On October 12, Secretary Salazar celebrated an illusory victory by lifting that moratorium, and at the time, he claimed that ``the policy position we are articulating today is that we are open for business.'' That is what Secretary Ken Salazar said on October 12. Unfortunately, those of us who live in Louisiana and along the gulf coast know that is not true. What he should have said is, the policy position we are articulating today is that we are open for business as long as you don't need a permit from the Interior Department, because that second formal moratorium was lifted, but that brought us to the initiation of the third moratorium--not a formal moratorium but a de facto one, a permatorium, a complete permit logjam in this administration and at the Department of the Interior. Again, this has been commonly and accurately referred to as a de facto moratorium, sometimes a permatorium, an absolute permit logjam. Secretary Salazar has perpetuated that, and Director Bromwich has perpetuated that. They repeatedly stated it doesn't exist, but the facts, the statistics, the numbers make bare that lie.
It would not be for 4 more months--until February 28 of this year--that the Interior Department would issue the very first permit to drill in deep water an exploratory well. So, again, big celebration, big announcements that the formal moratorium was lifted, but for 4 months zero permits and only 4 months later the first deepwater exploratory permit.
To date, even since February 28 of this year, there have only been 12 deepwater permits issued in the gulf. That pace is well below the pace before the BP disaster--about 60 percent slower than the prespill pace.
This is for shallow and deep water combined. The pace of only deepwater new well permits--permits that would increase domestic supplies and our reserves--is forthcoming at the average pace of one per month--just a trickle, just a tiny percentage of the predisaster pace.
Tomorrow will be 1 year since the Obama administration implemented this moratorium policy, the first of three crushing moratoriums, two formal moratoriums, the ongoing de facto moratorium. The Energy Information Administration--and that is a nonpartisan division of the Department of Energy--is now estimating that the falloff in domestic production this year alone will be about 200,000 barrels per day--that is a lot of oil, 200,000 barrels per day--and an additional 200,000 barrels per day in 2012. To put this falloff in production that is expected from the Obama administration's policy in perspective, as a result of the permitting logjam, by 2012 we would lose as much production in the Gulf of Mexico as we currently import from Brazil and Colombia combined. These are the two countries, by the way, that are supported with taxpayer-funded guaranteed projects related to their energy production. This falloff in production in the gulf by 2012 is roughly equivalent also to what we imported in January from Iraq.
There are several points I would like to highlight for tomorrow's anniversary of the initiation of this moratorium policy.
First, the price of gasoline at the pump is now $3.98 a gallon. It has more than doubled since President Obama took office. There is perhaps not a greater antistimulus for our economy than the doubling of the price at the pump.
Second, seven deepwater rigs have left the Gulf of Mexico. They are gone, and they are not coming back anytime soon. In addition, five are cold-stacked or without a contract. That is a total of 12 rigs. Ironically, that is exactly the same number of deepwater permits the Interior Department has issued--a trickle compared to pre-BP levels.
Third, what minor credit I should give the Interior Department for this abysmal pace of permitting will be noted when I release my hold on the nomination of Dan Ashe. I am currently holding that nomination of a top-level Interior Department official. I said I would hold it until we got at least 15 deepwater exploratory permits. At the time I initiated that, there were zero. As I said, that is now finally up to 12. I said I would lift the hold when we got to 15. We are just three away. We will get there. I will lift the hold. But that is merely a trickle of what our pace needs to be.
Fourth, today I will be introducing an important piece of legislation. It is called the Agency Overreach Moratorium Act. We need a moratorium. We need a moratorium on regulatory overreach, agency overreach, as we see in the Interior Department, in EPA, in many other agencies. This legislation is intended to prevent Federal action that would unilaterally destroy jobs on Federal lands on the OCS. That is happening every day at the Interior Department. Instead of issuing permits to find American energy, they are issuing regulations, the most recent on a whole new category of contractors--completely unnecessary because they were already regulating the drillers. That is regulatory overreach, and that is job-killing action. My Agency Overreach Moratorium Act will lay out the real moratorium we need on job-killing action out of Washington, out of this administration, not on domestic energy production.
I thank all of my colleagues, and I hope we will all come together soon around a commonsense, proactive domestic energy policy. It needs to include a lot. I am a fervent believer in all of the above, but it certainly needs to start lifting the continuing de facto moratorium on U.S. energy production, on U.S. jobs, on good additional Federal revenue to the U.S. Treasury to lower our deficit if we are going to get on the right energy path.
Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.