House GOP leaders urge Salazar to end six-month OCS delay now

Ninety-eight US House Republicans urged Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to end a six-month delay early and move ahead with a 2010-15 federal offshore oil and gas leasing plan he halted on Feb. 10.

“By offering new leasing opportunities in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as well as in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, the proposed plan is appropriately expansive, provides maximum flexibility to properly utilize all of our nation's domestic resources, and helps coastal communities pursue leasing and responsible development in the deep waters off their coastlines,” the House GOP members said in a July 31 letter to Salazar.

“Important offshore areas, like those in Alaska, offer tremendous natural gas and oil resources. By some estimates the Chukchi Sea, off Alaska's coast, contains as much natural gas and oil as the country has produced in the Gulf of Mexico since 1942. The administration should not continue to stand in the way of American energy development,” they continued.

Salazar announced the delay to obtain more public comment and to broaden the plan to include alternative and renewable resources. His predecessor, Dirk A. Kempthorne, launched it earlier than scheduled last summer in response to record high crude oil and gasoline prices.

The letter said that the lawmakers also hoped the US Minerals Management Service continues to move forward with the current 2007-12 Outer Continental Shelf leasing plan for all available areas, including the Gulf of Mexico, Mid-Atlantic Coast, and Alaska.

Several also issued statements urging Congress and the administration to support House Republicans’ “all of the above” energy plan, which includes more aggressive development of oil, gas, and other traditional domestic energy resources as well as alternative and renewable technologies.

‘De facto moratorium’

“Administration officials regularly express their support for a comprehensive energy plan. Unfortunately, they continue to stand in the way of new offshore drilling on America’s OCS,” maintained Doc Hastings (Wash), ranking minority member of the Natural Resources Committee. “With 14.7 million Americans out of work, the Department of the Interior should finally end its de facto moratorium on offshore drilling and take action to responsibly develop our oil and natural gas supply.

“As unemployment surges toward double digits nationwide, the American people are asking ‘where are the jobs?’ One of the best ways to creates millions of new jobs, clean up our environment, and reduce our dependence on foreign energy is Republicans’ ‘all of the above’ energy strategy. That includes environmentally-responsible deepwater energy exploration,” said Minority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio).

“At a time when our nation’s hardworking taxpayers are hurting, more domestic energy and new jobs would give our struggling economy a much needed boost,” observed Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ohio). “Currently, we have the resources available to open the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and decrease our dependence on foreign oil. The Obama Administration must stop standing in the way of energy independence for the American people.”

“With the knowledge that jobs and economy, not a government-run healthcare plan, remain the number one concern for nearly all Americans, there should be no question whether or not to allow access to the abundant domestic oil and gas resources located throughout the deepwater OCS,” said Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Rob Bishop (Utah). “This responsible and environmentally sound decision will provide 2 million jobs domestic jobs, much-needed tax revenue and contribute to our goal for domestic energy independence.”

“The impact of the administration’s agenda, whether it’s government health care or the national energy tax will not be measured in jobs saved and created, but, sadly, in jobs lost and destroyed. Republicans will continue to offer innovative solutions that put job creation first, and we hope that fair minded, centrist Democrats concerned about the direction this Congress has taken will work together with us,” said Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.)

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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