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United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


The Senator from Louisiana.


Mr. VITTER. Madam President, today is the 1-year anniversary of President Obama and Secretary of Interior Salazar finally lifting the formal moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico following the BP disaster. But simply lifting the moratorium did not solve the problem. I return to the Senate floor today to again say that still, a year later, that problem is not solved because there is a continuing permit logjam.

It started with a de facto moratorium. Now there has just been a trickle of permits, and there is a continuing permit logjam that has dramatically shut down and slowed energy activity in the Gulf of Mexico. That must change.

Of course, this is vitally important for my State of Louisiana and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of my citizens. That must change for the good of the country as well, for our economic well-being and to increase our revenues to address deficit and debt.

As we talk about jobs and various jobs bills and jobs proposals, we must focus on the domestic energy sector, and we must change the situation. We must reverse this virtual shutdown of the gulf for the good of the country, and I hope we do that.

To that end, I joined Congressman Jeff Landry yesterday in a meeting with Obama Director Michael Bromwich and other high-ranking administration officials who have to do with this very permitting and leasing process. We wanted to sit down with these officials in the Obama administration to again make this very point. The formal moratorium was lifted a year ago, but the problem persists, and we need to do better. We need to issue permits at a much more healthy

pace. We need to get that important domestic energy activity back up and running in the Gulf of Mexico.

Recently, there was an independent study by HIS Global Insight which put some hard numbers on this situation. That study said leasing in the Gulf of Mexico is down about 65 percent from pre-formal moratorium levels. It also pointed out that the waiting line of people and companies to get permits has almost doubled. It has increased 90 percent.

So what does that mean? That means far less activity in the gulf, far less energy activity for the country, and far fewer jobs--jobs we need now more than ever in this horrible economy.

Let me give some other relevant numbers. As of the end of September--just a few weeks ago--there were 21 floating rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, of which about 18 are currently drilling wells. That compares, premoratorium, to 33 floating rigs with 29 drilling wells at that time. That is a 37-percent drop in both the number of rigs and those drilling.

Since the moratorium began, 11 rigs have left the Gulf of Mexico. Only one of these has returned. In addition, three more are sitting idle. Seven of these rigs have left to go to African countries, including Egypt, Nigeria, Liberia, and the Republic of Congo. Three have gone to South America, mostly to Brazil and French Guiana; and the remaining rig was mobilized to Vietnam. This all translates to about 60 wells lost based on the original contract terms for these rigs.

The loss of these rigs isn't just loss of equipment; it is loss of important energy and economic activity, and it is loss of jobs. It is lost spending of $6.3 billion and an annual loss of direct employment of 11,500 jobs over just 2 years. When we look at indirect employment, it is a multiplier that brings that lost job figure to way more than that.

Again, it started with the formal moratorium. The formal moratorium was lifted 1 year ago today, but the problem persists because there was a de facto moratorium, and there is still a permit logjam.

Another example of this enormous problem isn't just permitting. Another example is lease activity by the administration. Again, that is completely separate and apart from permitting. But the dramatic decline in lease sales, lease activity that the administration is putting out, shows the same problem mindset. What do I mean?

Well, in the last fiscal year, the administration had no new lease activity--zero, nothing, nada. What that means is--just a few years ago the income to the Federal Government from lease sales was almost $10 billion, and that has fallen like a rock through the floor and is now zero. That is another indicator of a problem mindset in this administration, leading to a dramatic economic slowdown. We need to reverse this. We need to do better for the economy, for jobs, and for that important revenue it brings to the Federal Government which could lower deficit and debt.

So as we talk about the need to create good American jobs, as we also talk about the need to grapple with our deficit and debt situation and dramatically lower deficit and debt, as we talk about the need for revenue to be part of that picture, domestic energy has to be part of the solution, and it can be a big and productive part of the solution to both of those huge problems--the need to create good American jobs and the need to lower deficit and debt. If we aggressively pursue domestic energy production, starting in the gulf, fully reopening the gulf, getting the permit process to a pace at least equal to pre-formal moratorium levels, get lease activity back online, and then expand to other areas of our resources off the Atlantic, Pacific, offshore Alaska--we have enormous resources that are now off-limits to energy production--if we do that, we can grow jobs, we can grow Federal revenue and lessen deficit and debt, and we can help attack both of those major economic problems for the country.

Again, yesterday, I met, along with Congressman Landry, with Director Bromwich to make those points, to give specific examples of what we can be doing to go down that path in favor of good American jobs and lowering the deficit and debt. I hope it made a difference. Ultimately, only time will tell.

But this needs to be part of our overall economic approach. This needs to be part of our deficit and debt reduction approach, and it can make a major contribution to solving both of these problems.

I hope in a bipartisan way we will do that, and urge that in the Senate, and the administration will break through the negative mindset they have had for several years and do that in an aggressive way. Our country needs it. Our workers need it. We need it as taxpayers to lower the deficit and debt, and this would be a very productive way forward.

Madam President, with that, I yield the floor.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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