U.S. Sen. David Vitter today sent a letter to Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar immediately after he announced the Obama administration's five-year plan for energy production and leasing on the outer continental shelf.
"It's a good sign that Sec. Salazar finally produced a 5-year plan, but unfortunately it's a huge missed opportunity," Vitter said. "The administration threw out the previous 5-year plan and their new plan eliminates vast resources that should be available to our nation's energy producers. Limiting Gulf of Mexico access as well as access on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts just perpetuates this administration's attempts to shut down offshore energy production."
Vitter requested details of the administration's upcoming 5-year plan in a September 28 letter he sent with U.S. Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) regarding the drop in lease sales from $10 billion in 2008 to $0 in 2010. Vitter has been following the progress of Interior's 5-year plan for years, dating to August 2009.
The OCS Lands Act requires that the Secretary of the Interior prepare a 5-year program that includes a schedule of oil and gas lease sales and indicates the size, timing and location of proposed leasing activity based on the best available resources to meet our nation's energy needs.
Below is a copy of Sen. Vitter's letter to Salazar.
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
The Honorable Ken Salazar
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240
Dear Secretary Salazar:
I write regarding your announcement of a new 5-year leasing plan for America's offshore energy resources. I commend your timely work on developing a new 5-year plan, given that one of your first actions as Secretary of Interior was to terminate the proposed 2010-2015 leasing program. On September 28, 2011, I was joined by three of my senate colleagues in requesting the details of Interior's strategy for moving forward with scheduled leases, as well as a new 5-year plan, and this plan is a missed opportunity.
Section 18 of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), requires that a 5-year schedule be designed to "best meet national energy needs for the 5-year period following its approval." I am concerned what you have proposed falls well short of the clear intent of the law. In fact, your current proposal reduces leasing by orders of magnitude when compared to the program you threw out in 2009.
Based on this plan, Americans should conclude that Interior Department believes that the United States' overall energy needs will be reduced over the next 5 years. By reducing the amount of energy production available, your 5-year plan seems to contradict the president's "Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future," which was intended to reduce oil imports by a third by 2025. I have the following concerns that I would appreciate your addressing:
1. The 2010-2015 plan you threw out opened areas of the Atlantic, significant acreage in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, four geologic basins off S. California, one geologic basin off N. California, and in Alaska the North Aleutian Basin and Cook Inlet. How does excluding all these areas in your proposed 2012-2017 plan best meet our national energy needs?
2. The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) is 1.76 billion acres. Of that 1.76 billion, 38 million acres are actually leased. That means that the federal government has provided access to a mere 2.16% of our total potential resources. Are you willing to reconsider opening more areas for leasing and in particular the Eastern Gulf of Mexico?
3. You substituted a plan that would have provided approximately five lease sales a year, with a plan that provides about 2.5 lease sales per year. How does a schedule of sales at a pace about half of what you threw out help address America's energy needs?
As the National Ocean Industries Association points out, "A Five 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." What your Five Year Plan provides is not merely a barrier to growing new jobs and economic prosperity, but ignores the true nature of our energy and economic needs. I look forward to your timely and thorough response to each question provided.
United States Senate