House panel pledges hard look at offshore drilling delays

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 24 -- US House Natural Resources Committee leaders promised to raise questions about what they consider a de facto offshore drilling moratorium with officials at the US Department of the Interior at hearings in the next 2 weeks. The committee also will hear directly from affected Gulf Coast states, communities, and local businesses on Mar. 16 and conduct a field hearing and site visit in Louisiana during the April district work period, Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) said.

“We’ve heard directly from you, and other members of Congress from the gulf region who are concerned over the Obama administration’s refusal to issue new shallow and deepwater drilling permits in a timely, efficient manner,” they said in a Feb. 23 letter to six Republicans on the committee.

“Indeed, [DOI] has even been held in contempt by a federal judge over its failure to issue permits. It is very evident that real economic pain is being felt by families, businesses and communities in the gulf as a result of the President’s de facto moratorium,” Hastings and Lamborn continued. “The Natural Resources Committee will be actively addressing this issue as it directly relates to our top priorities of economic growth, job creation, national security and oversight.”

They noted that US Interior Sec. Ken Salazar is scheduled to appear before the full committee to discuss DOI’s fiscal 2012 budget request on Mar. 3, and that US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement Director Michael R. Bromwich is scheduled to testify on Mar. 30 about the agency’s budget and permitting policies.

“While the people and local businesses of the gulf have been hardest hit by the administration’s delays, the need to resume offshore energy production is of national importance,” Hastings and Lamborn said in the letter to Reps. John Fleming (R-La.), Bill Flores (R-Tex.), Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), Jeff Landry (R-La.), David Rivera (R-Fla.), and Steve Southerland (R-Fla.). “Offshore drilling supports thousands of Americans jobs throughout the country. In addition, nearly a third of all US oil is produced in the Gulf of Mexico.”

The Offshore Marine Services Association, which represents US flag service vessel owners and operators, shipyards, and other offshore support businesses, applauded Hastings and Lamborn’s announcement. “The ‘Obamatorium’ is a self-inflicted energy crisis for America. It is an unlawful policy that is actively costing jobs, putting countless more in immediate jeopardy, contributing to skyrocketing fuel prices and making our country more dependent on Middle East oil,” OMSA Pres. Jim Adams said on Feb. 24. “It is time Congress investigated the Obama administration’s destructive policy and exposed the egregious and ongoing harms and to hold the administration accountable for causing it.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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