Governor Bobby Jindal announced today that the State of Louisiana and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are seeking to intervene in lawsuits filed by environmental groups challenging the federal government's approval of the first Exploration Plan (EP) since the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill. The states of Alabama and Mississippi join Louisiana in seeking intervention.
The suits, filed by six environmental organizations (ENGOs) in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, represent the first legal challenge to a deepwater drilling plan approval since the Deepwater Horizon event. The plan in question was the first to comply with the new Site-specific Environmental Assessment (SEA) implemented in August 2010. An approved EP is the next step toward the approval of applications for permits to drill.
Governor Jindal emphasized that the outcome of these lawsuits has the ability to further devastate jobs in the offshore drilling industry and impact energy prices.
Governor Jindal said, "While these lawsuits attack Shell's exploration plan, they could impact exploration and drilling activities in the entire Gulf of Mexico -- completely halting the approval of future permits, or action to be taken on permits that have already received approval.
"After a robust process to increase safety and environmental standards for offshore exploration and drilling, the oil and gas industry has worked aggressively to comply with the new standards and now is not the time to halt the Gulf Coast's ability to fuel America. It took more than 300 days from the Deepwater Horizon event for the first exploration plan to be approved and after an excruciating process for the thousands of workers in the oil and gas industry, we have finally started to get back to work.
"We've already faced a moratorium, followed by a "permitorium' and now we are threatened again by a possible judicial moratorium. This not only threatens thousands of jobs in Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast, but also hurts our efforts to bring down rising energy prices. Everybody in America is connected to exploration in the Gulf of Mexico because of prices at the gas pump. That's why what happens in Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast matters to the rest of the country. While the President just recently decided to release fuel from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an effort to bring down energy prices, it makes more sense to us to use the resources we already have along our coast.
"We will fight these lawsuits tooth and nail so that thousands of workers are not again put out of work and so we can continue our long tradition of fueling America."
Governor Jindal added, "We have also been in touch with the Governors and Attorney Generals Offices in Alaska, Virginia and Texas. These states all share our interest in ensuring that a significant economic driver for our states is not depressed further by unnecessary delays in permitting."
Under Governor Jindal's direction, Secretary Angelle established the Back to Work Coalition, a group of industry representatives facilitated by the Gulf Economic Survival Team (GEST). Since April 2010, Secretary Angelle has presented a unified voice to BOEMRE Director Michael Bromwich and BOEMRE officials in order to create a clearer roadmap for resuming normal Gulf exploration operations. As Louisiana's liaison between the offshore oil and gas industry and the federal government, Secretary Angelle has led the effort to bring a return to responsible exploration and the economic stability that comes with it.
Secretary Angelle said, "The Gulf of Mexico produces about 25 percent of the nation's oil and gas. If we pull the plug on deepwater drilling in the Gulf, we threaten America's major domestic exploration and production operations, consequently damaging job opportunities, economic recovery and America's energy security."
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour said, "Any further delay or reduction in offshore drilling would be devastating to the energy sector and our state. The energy industry provides good jobs for our people and fuels our economy. In a time when our country needs to be producing more energy, this attempt to interfere with the states' best economic interests is misguided and detrimental to the well-being of Mississippi and our country's energy security."
"Although Alabama is still recovering from the Deepwater Horizon accident, we cannot let the wrongful conduct of a few companies prevent the safe development and production of oil wells which are so vital to the economy of our state," said Alabama Governor Robert Bentley. "Offshore drilling is important to the viability of the state, gulf coast region and nation, both economically with the jobs they produce and to ease our dependence on foreign sources of energy. Energy production is critical to our nation right now and it is important that offshore drilling be allowed to continue."
Erik Milito, Director of Upstream and Industry Operations for the American Petroleum Institute (API) said, "API and the industry appreciate Secretary Angelle and the State of Louisiana's leadership and strong support for the offshore oil and gas industry as demonstrated by their intervention in this litigation. The oil and gas industry is responsible for 9.2 million jobs throughout the economy, and we must ensure that offshore production continues so that those key jobs in Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico are protected."