Senate holds hearing on OCS leasing program

Offshore staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. National Ocean Industries Association President Randall Luthi has released a statement thanking Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Chairman, US Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee “for her leadership in holding” a hearing on the 2017-2022 OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program.  

In his message to Murkowski, Luthi once again weighed in on some of the most hotly contended issues surrounding the program, namely, the exclusion of Atlantic Lease Sale 260 from the program.

 “As we move closer to the final program, it is imperative that our policymakers understand that restricting offshore access, as the administration did by removing Atlantic Lease Sale 260, forfeits thousands of well-paying American jobs and millions of dollars of much needed government revenue,” he said.

“The proposed Atlantic sale was not scheduled until 2021, allowing for five more years of environmental analysis and public dialogue required under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act before making a final decision on whether to move forward with the sale. 

“We are also still awaiting administration action on pending Atlantic seismic surveying permits that, if ever issued, will allow for the collection of modern seismic data to better inform future leasing decisions. 

“Instead of continuing this public discussion to better understand the Atlantic’s true resource potential and bolster America’s energy security, the administration chose to stop the process in its tracks.  And they did so despite the following factors:

  • Bipartisan support from all four governors in Virginia, North Caroling, South Carolina, and Georgia
  • Bipartisan support of all eight US Senators in Virginia, North Caroling, South Carolina, and Georgia
  • Support of a majority of all four Congressional delegations from Virginia, North Caroling, South Carolina, and Georgia
  • Support of a majority of the more than 1 million public comments received
  • Decades of real-world examples in the Gulf of Mexico as to the compatibility of oil and gas with military training, tourism, and fishing.

“Given this wave of support for Atlantic leasing, demonstrated oil and gas compatibility with other industries in the Gulf of Mexico, and five additional years before the sale to work out any remaining issues, the administration’s decision to preemptively and unilaterally turn their back on such a promising opportunity was clearly based on the ideology of a vocal few rather than the merit of a rational, scientifically-backed approach.  Director Hopper has the unenviable task today of attempting to justify this brazenly political decision.”

He also expressed his support for the Alaskan Congressional Delegation, which days ago submitted a letter addressed to Sally Jewell, Secretary of the US Department of the Interior (DoI), asking the administration to reconsider its previous decision to strike Arctic exploration from the final program.

“[W]e write to reiterate our strongest support for a robust program that maintains and accelerates the timing of all lease sales that have been proposed for Alaska’s federal waters,” the letter read, later stating that the DoI “must recognize that Alaska’s offshore areas contain prolific energy resources.”

“As you know, since 2011, Interior has chosen to delay significantly and outright cancel multiple lease sales that were planned for the Alaska OCS. Last year, the department unilaterally withdrew almost 10 million acres of federal waters from future leasing activity.

“Shortly after that, Interior proposed a draft program with just three lease sales in Alaska: one in the Beaufort Sea, in 2020; one in the Cook Inlet, in 2021; and one in the Chukchi Sea, in 2022.

“We have expressed our significant frustration with each of those actions and urged Interior to reverse or amend them.”

Luthi said: “NOIA applauds this letter, and stresses the importance of also retaining the Gulf of Mexico lease sales.”

Luthi said that, “[h]opefully, this hearing is a step in the right direction in ensuring that the Administration keeps all of the proposed Gulf of Mexico and Arctic lease sales in the Final 2017-2022 OCS Leasing Program.”

Murkowski’s remarks

In her opening remarks, Murkowski took the administration to task for its handling of the OCS’ resources, expressing frustration at several of the topics Luthi and others within the industry have addressed.

“The department has concluded after years of study that just 13% of our nation’s OCS acreage should be available for leasing.It has canceled sales in my home state, where development has overwhelming support, and produced only a ‘bare minimum’ plan for 2017 through 2022. I find that unacceptable.”

Murkowski also noted support for producing energy domestically.

“We are at a rare moment where we can plan ahead to meet our future needs, without facing a supply or price-related emergency. Yet, we are not taking advantage of it.

“By choosing not to produce here, we are telling other countries – some of them rather nefarious – that we would rather buy from them. And we are giving away the jobs, the revenues, the growth, and the security that would all come with that energy development.”


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