Rahall: Expired OCS moratoriums probably can't be reimposed

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 16 -- US Outer Continental Shelf moratoriums that expired last September probably can't be reimposed, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-W.Va.) said on Feb. 10.

"I can understand your desire to see the moratoriums reinstated. However, the ship may have already sailed and the political reality may be that they can't be reimposed," he told the first two witnesses testifying at the first of the committee's three scheduled hearings on OCS oil and gas leasing policies. Two more will be held on Feb. 24 and 25.

But movie and television actor Ted Danson, representing the Oceana environmental organization, and Philippe Cousteau, chief executive of Earth Eco International and grandson of undersea explorer Jacques Yves Cousteau, said that bans on oil and gas activity are still needed.

"My hope would be you would sail the ship back into port. We're flirting with disaster by drilling offshore. Our fisheries around the world are an $80 billion/year landed industry. One-third of them have totally collapsed. By adding acidification to the ocean, you make it impossible for creatures there to survive. The added insults could have an impact on our lifetimes and our children's lifetimes," Danson said.

"Reinstating the moratorium is critical to the health of the ocean. But if there must be new drilling, its impacts must be minimized. It's absolutely critical that studies be conducted before any leasing occurs. Contrary to popular belief, all oceans aren't the same. The current process does not recognize this," said Cousteau, who testified on behalf of the Ocean Conservancy.

He and Danson also said that Arctic oil and gas leasing should be stopped because of its ice floe impacts, and a comprehensive strategy should be developed to manage and protect ocean resources. Cousteau also suggested that an ocean investment fund should be created to use offshore revenue for more ocean research and development.

'You will have spills'
Several committee members were sympathetic. "You start putting these oil rigs off the coast of New Jersey, people aren't going to come even if there aren't spills. And you will have spills. This notion that no rigs caused spills and there was no damage from Katrina and Rita is contrary to what I understand," said Frank Pallone (D-NJ).

Others were critical. "I think your efforts are misplaced. You have not talked about an orderly process to get us off fossil fuels. We're going to have to continue, for the near-term I believe, the extraction of oil and gas not just off our coasts but around the world," said Jim Costa (D-Calif.), who chairs the committee's Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee.

But Cousteau and Danson both said that continued reliance on offshore oil has impacts beyond production platforms. "I don't think you can just look at the drilling of oil. You have to talk about burning it. On every level, we create more jobs with green energy. To imply we're losing jobs by not drilling offshore seems ingenuous," Danson said.

"I believe we need to embrace an alternative energy approach that is worthy of this country's potential. Any new drilling on the OCS is not going to reduce drilling elsewhere or meaningfully reduce the number of tankers bringing oil to our country," Cousteau maintained.

He said that he considered siting important in considering any offshore energy production. "It has to be appropriate. The thing about wind that's different than oil is that wind doesn't produce a caustic substance," he said.

"It's clear that we need order in the ocean just as surely as we need it on land. We need comprehensive ocean planning, with conservation as a central deciding factor, so that the many competing uses work together in a way that is sustainable for our shared ocean future," Cousteau said.

Revenue and jobs
Committee members from producing states cited the offshore oil and gas industry's economic contributions. "In Louisiana, we have 21,000 producing company jobs related to oil and gas just on the OCS with an average annual salary around $60,000 per employee," said John Fleming (R-La.).

"Oil and gas is the second-largest contributor of income for our federal government, after income taxes. Most of the folks in the oil and gas industry want to protect the environment. I support responsible energy development because I think it's a big part of our economy," said Dan Boren (D-Okla.).

"The problem is we have hundreds of groups and government agencies that throw up roadblocks any time anyone wants to drill an oil and gas well. That destroys jobs, which hurts the poor people of this country. You're putting the final nail in the coffin of many rural areas because their citizens have to drive great distances to jobs and they can't afford to pay higher prices. We can't base the entire economy of our country on tourism, particular in a tough economic time," said John R. Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.)

But other committee members were skeptical that offshore oil and gas resources can be produced with minimal environmental impacts. "We definitely have heard a lot from the industry about how things have changed and technology is better. Just this past December, a small hole the size of a quarter developed in a pipe that sends oil from the very same platform which spilled oil off Santa Barbara and sent thousands of gallons of oil into the water. It's not just the platforms. It's the pipelines, the barges and the other infrastructure that are also at risk," said Lois Capps (D-Calif.)

Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) went further. "Despite the improvements in oil drilling technologies, 100% of the oil that's produced spills because the carbon in that oil comes back down as carbon dioxide. We need to talk about the inevitability of this kind of oil spill from every onshore and offshore well if we continue on this course. I think we should consider an international moratorium on drilling for oil in those parts of the planet which have been destroyed by oil use," he said.

A second panel of witnesses included Carolyn McCormick, managing director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau in North Carolina; D.T. Minich, president of the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau in Florida; Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman's Associations; Bruce Allen, co-founder of Stop Oil Seeps California, and Jefferson Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

WAFWA: Aerial survey finds lesser prairie chicken population grew

07/06/2015 A recent range-wide aerial survey found the lesser prairie chicken population rose 25% from 2014 to 2015, the Western Association of Fish & Wil...

Production ramps up from Sunrise oil sands project

07/06/2015 Husky Energy Inc., Calgary, reported that 25 well pairs are now on production at its Sunrise oil sands project in northeastern Alberta. Steaming is...

Buru awarded onshore Canning licenses

07/06/2015 Buru Energy Ltd., Perth, and Mitsubish Corp. have been granted two production licenses for Ungani oil field in the onshore Canning basin of Western...

CERI: Energy, operational efficiencies possible in Canadian oil, gas

07/06/2015 Measures can be taken by operators in the expanding resource-intensive Canadian oil and gas sector to improve both energy efficiency and operationa...

Statoil installs subsea wet gas compressor at Gullfaks

07/06/2015 Statoil SA installed what it is calling the world’s first subsea wet gas compressor at its Gullfaks C platform offshore Norway. By compressing at t...

Earth model assists Permian asset valuation

07/06/2015 Laredo Petroleum Inc.'s Permian-Garden City asset is an unconventional resource play with more than four potential stacked zones covering a 1,700 s...

China's Yanchi area, western Ordos basin derived from mixed source

07/06/2015 The Yanchi area lies in the west of China's Ordos basin and to the west of the giant Sulige gas field, site of recent breakthroughs in Lower Permia...

Newfoundland, Labrador prepare for deepwater exploration

07/06/2015 Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board's (C-NLOPB) most recent call for bids for the Eastern Newfoundland Region is coming to a ...

US House committee leaders send letters to Plains, PHMSA about leak

07/06/2015 US House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders from both parties asked Plains Pipeline LP and the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Admini...
White Papers

Definitive Guide to Cybersecurity for the Oil & Gas Industry

In the Oil and Gas industry, there is no single adversary and no single threat to the information tech...

UAS Integration for Infrastructure: More than Just Flying

Oil and gas companies recognize the benefits that the use of drones or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) c...

Solutions to Financial Distress Resulting from a Weak Oil and Gas Price Environment

The oil and gas industry is in the midst of a prolonged worldwide downturn in commodity prices. While ...
Sponsored by

2015 Global Engineering Information Management Solutions Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award

The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global...
Sponsored by

Three Tips to Improve Safety in the Oil Field

Working oil fields will always be tough work with inherent risks. There’s no getting around that. Ther...
Sponsored by

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts

Operating a Sustainable Oil & Gas Supply Chain in North America

When Tue, Oct 20, 2015

Short lead times and unpredictable conditions in the Oil & Gas industry can create costly challenges in supply chains. By implementing a LEAN culture of continuous improvement you can eliminate waste, increase productivity and gain end-to-end visibility leading to a sustainable and well-oiled supply chain.

Please join us for this webcast sponsored by Ryder System, Inc.


On Demand

Leveraging technology to improve safety & reliability

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

Attend this informative webinar to learn more about how to leverage technology to meet the new OSHA standards and protect your employees from the hazards of arc flash explosions.


The Resilient Oilfield in the Internet of Things World

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

As we hear about the hype surrounding the Internet of Things, the oil and gas industry is questioning what is different than what is already being done. What is new?  Using sensors and connecting devices is nothing new to our mode of business and in many ways the industry exemplifies many principles of an industrial internet of things. How does the Internet of Things impact the oil and gas industry?

Prolific instrumentation and automation digitized the industry and has changed the approach to business models calling for a systems led approach.  Resilient Systems have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining their central purpose.  A resilient system, such as Maximo, allows an asset intensive organization to leverage connected devices by merging real-time asset information with other critical asset information and using that information to create a more agile organization.  

Join this webcast, sponsored by IBM, to learn how about Internet of Things capabilities and resilient systems are impacting the landscape of the oil and gas industry.


Taking the Headache out of Fuel License and Exemption Certificates: How to Ensure Compliance

Tue, Aug 25, 2015

This webinar, brought to you by Avalara, will detail the challenges of tax document management, as well as recommend solutions for fuel suppliers. You will learn:

-    Why it’s critical to track business partner licenses and exemption documents
-    The four key business challenges of ensuring tax compliance through document management
-    Best practice business processes to minimize exposure to tax errors


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!


Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected