Thursday, March 17, 2011

Congress Reacts to Obama Drilling Moratorium

Interior Secretary Salazar held a press conference in Oklahoma City to counter one by Speaker of the House Boehner on the administration's permitting and leasing policy implementation of onshore and offshore oil and gas drilling. He stated that permit applications will rise by 50% for onshore production on public and Native American lands. Then he went on to make the same talking point claims that are refuted by facts on the ground. The fact that he held the press conference indicates he is feeling the pressure from those who insist our national energy policy - or lack of one - be driven by common sense solutions and not far left ideology.

The House Natural Resources Committee has a noteworthy comparison between President Obama's claims about crude oil and natural gas production during his administration and the actual facts of reality. One of Salazar's oft repeated claims has to do with offshore oil production.

Here is the comparison between Obama world and real world facts as it pertains to offshore energy production:

SPIN: “From 2008 to 2010, oil production from the Outer Continental Shelf increased more than a third – from 446 million barrels in 2008 to an [sic] more than 600 million barrels of estimated production in 2010.” (Heather Zichal, “Expanding Safe and Responsible Energy Production,” The White House Blog, 3/8/11)


•Once again, the Obama Administration is attempting to take credit for actions they had nothing to do with. The strong production in the Gulf was due to leases issued in 1996-2000 under the Deepwater Royalty Relief Act – long before President Obama took office.
•The Obama Administration’s actions, such as imposing a de facto moratorium, are causing energy production to decline in the Gulf of Mexico. EIA shows a 300,000 barrel per day decline in current Gulf production and a projected Gulf decline of over 150 million barrels of oil in 2012.

SPIN: “Since the Deepwater Horizon spill and the implementation of stronger safety standards, BOEMRE has approved 37 shallow water permits in the Gulf of Mexico.” (White House Fact Sheet, “Fact Sheet: Expanding Safe And Responsible Oil And Gas Production,”, Accessed 3/14/11)


•As of February 2011, shallow-water permit issuance continues to lag behind the historical average of 7.1 permits per month.
•37 permits issued since April 2010 represents an average of only 3.7per month.
•Only two deepwater permits have been issued - over four months after the moratorium was officially listed. The Administration is being held in contempt for slow-walking permits and is currently trying to appeal a Federal Judge’s ruling that ordered them to act on stalled deepwater permits.

Lawmakers are continuing in efforts to spur on the administration in the decision making process of issuing permits and leases for drilling. Rep Bill Flores recently wrote an op-ed on his efforts in partnership with Senators Hutchison and Landrieu.

That is why I introduced the Lease Extension and Secure Energy Act (LEASE), a bipartisan House companion bill to one filed by Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican, and Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat. The LEASE Act will extend offshore leases affected by the Department of Interior’s drilling moratorium for an additional 12 months, restoring lost time, protecting American jobs and increasing energy security. In addition, this week, I introduced the Expedited Offshore Permitting Act, a bill to streamline the offshore drilling permit process by codifying permit issuance timetables and reducing bureaucratic overreach. We desperately need the stability that comes from unlocking access to and tapping into our American resources so we can pursue an all-of-the-above energy plan.

Senator Vitter (R-LA) also sent a letter to Secretary Salazar this week: U.S. Sen. David Vitter today in a letter blasted Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) Director Michael Bromwich for misleading the public about the number of offshore drilling permits pending approval by Bromwich's agency. In a court filing last week, the Department of Justice stated that there are far more permits awaiting approval than Salazar or Bromwich have led Vitter and the public to believe.

"Over the last several weeks and months, you have indicated publicly, before Congress, and privately to members, including myself, that there are only a handful of permits awaiting agency action," Vitter wrote in the letter. "It is a mathematical impossibility for your representations to be accurate, as well as the filings of the Department of Justice to be accurate. It is not possible for there to be 'too few permits' awaiting review, and simultaneously 'too many' permits being reviewed to make issuing a particular handful problematic."

Vitter notes the difference in stated testimony before the Natural Resources committee and statistics that point to a different narrative. Vitter's letter noted that Salazar recently testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that Interior has received only 47 shallow water permit applications over the past nine months and that only seven deepwater permit applications are pending; similarly, Bromwich recently told Vitter that only six deepwater permits applications are pending and publicly stated that deepwater permit approvals will be limited because "only a handful of completed applications have been received."

However, in a motion filing last week seeking a stay of federal judge Martin Feldman's two recent orders directing BOEMRE to issue at least seven permits, the DOJ warned of harm from "re-prioritization [resulting] from the court's orders" because there are actually 270 shallow water permit applications pending and 52 deepwater permit applications pending.
"I'm afraid that this clear discrepancy between the DOJ filing and the department's public statements shows that Interior will pursue its political agenda at any cost," Vitter said

As long as the President and the Interior Department continue with the talking points on the production of crude oil and natural gas in our country, the pressure from elected officials and those of us monitoring the situation must continue. And, each time President Obama takes credit for the policies put into place by former President Bush for the purposes of his re-election campaign, he must be held responsible.

We will look toward the leadership of Chairman Hastings of the Natural Resources Committee as he keeps the pressure on the administration to do the right thing for our energy needs.

A top House Republican said he is preparing a bill that would force the Obama administration to open up more coastal waters for offshore drilling.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., the head of the House Natural Resources Committee, said he would “introduce legislation to put the Gulf of Mexico back to work.”

“I also intend to take legislative action to reverse President Obama’s imposition of an offshore drilling moratorium outside the Gulf of Mexico,” Hastings said, referring to the administration’s decision to rule out oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as part of its 2012-2017 blueprint for outer continental shelf leasing

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